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What is the best way to teach a 4th grader with ADD multiplication tables? He struggles with his lack of attention so memorization isn't working.

The school couldn't help and I don't know where to start.



(I'm posting under Comments instead of Answers since my background is in Secondary education, Mathematics)

Someone had brought the page below to my attention within the last few days. She said she found the card game "Peace" described here helpful. (It was actually for her, and she is an older "student")

One thought which may also help - if you have access to blocks , coins, poker chips etc (as long as you have at least 144 of them of the same size), try using them to visualize the multiplication problem. For example, if it was 3 x 2, then place one row of 3 chips, then another row of three chips on top of it. 

If the student does this on a board (or something moveable), you can then rotate it 90 degrees to show (visually) that 2 x 3 is the same as 3 x 2. 

One additional thought... since multiplication is just repeated addition, you could show that one row of 3, added to another row of 3, is the same as 2x3. 

Someone once told me "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand". I also heard once that the more senses you get into the educational process, the faster you'll learn it and the longer you'll retain it. 

Just a few thoughts. Good luck. 

I purchased a "push button" multiplication table for my own daughters when they were learning multiplication.  They both learned the facts so quickly that I thought I had wasted my money.  In reality, it was a wise investment because of the simple "race" to learn the facts so they didn't need to use the table.  Friendly competition can make learning the facts more fun but when peers have passed you by, you must learn to compete with the clock and just keep improving.

I feel you! I had two of four children diagnosed with ADHD. The key for me was to make learning fun. The more entertaining it is the more they will learn. Children, especially with challenges like ADHD, learn in a different way. Yes, the attention span is low because it is boring to them. Find a game on the computer, create one with cards, provide rewards, focus on the positive things not on the things not done. Make a big deal when the child focuses, even if it is only for a few minutes. And one last suggestion, don't expect them to fit into the square pegs of traditional learning. Get creative. You will both have much more fun. If you have more questions or if you would like more suggestions feel free to contact me.  

I do not think traditional memorization drill will help at all, he needs a different way of learning that is enjoyable and not stressful for him (or you!).  Have you looked into using multiple intelligences to teach him?
Everyone has an intelligence they are dominant in.  As many people have commented, some people learn best by repeated memorization, others do better when material is presented with colors or in a song. For children with ADHD, utilizing movement (look into Brain Gym® for activities also), colors, music, rhythms  and spatial placement can be the key to keeping his attention and make learning more like a game.
 This system was lovingly created by a Brain Gym Certified math teacher using a child's 7 intelligences (supported by Gardners 7 intelligences research) to teach and retain multiplication tables 1-9. 
Please let me know if he is still having trouble learning or retaining the times tables.
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17 Answers

Assuming he understands the concepts of multiplication and the issue is memorizing times tables and getting more comfortable with them, can he keep focused on memorization drills for five minutes? For two minutes? I would recommend shooting for a small achievable goal like that and then drilling in short sessions twice or more daily. This is hard for a school to schedule for, but much more manageable at home. One five minute drill after school, another one after dinner or before bed, and some way to show that daily progress is being made (hopefully it will be). Here's a resource with good, thorough advice:

Are you familiar with Schoolhouse Rock? It is a series of short animated musical educational video clips (very catchy I might add!) that explain many concepts in a more stimulating manner. There a multitude of subjects covered, including the multiplication tables through 12. This website has links to each of the videos.

Plenty of great suggestions here, I would also recommend showing him some of the patterns that arise naturally through the tables themselves. An example I like is multiples of 9 using columns, since most children are quite capable of counting to 10.

Write the numbers 1- 10 in the margin on some notebook paper

then make two columns and have him write out numbers from 0-9, next to that  have him write out the reverse order 9-0

he'll end up with

1)   0 9

2)   1 8

3)   2 7

4)   3 6

5)   4 5

6)   5 4

7)   6 3

8)   7 2

9)   8 1

10) 9 0

Another cool thing about that particular series is that the sum of the digits all add up to 9.

For multiples 10 you can just write out the numbers 1-10 and literally put a zero in the right column. For multiples of 5 it's 0112233445 and then you alternate 5050505050 in the next column. For 3 they actually go in patterns of.... you guessed it: 3. 000 111 222 3 then in the right column it's 369 258 147 0, that series continues on as well but starts over with 333 444 555 6 and then repeating the same 369 258 147 0. If you notice every third number of the right column is one less than the previous group and includes all of the number 0-9 again. For 2 the pattern is in groups of 5, 00001 11112 in the left column and then 24680 24680 on the right.  And so on.

Drilling and memorization may be exactly what he needs, but it's going to be entirely dependent on and unique to your son. The most important thing is to not get frustrated, and to play around and enjoy yourselves. Good luck to you both.


Michael B.
Thank you for the great ideas in finding patterns with numbers in multiplication!
Kevin K.

Have you tried music, rhythm, beat or movement? Here's an example, bounce a ball to a beat and on your turn say 3x3 when your child catches the ball to return it to you he has to say 9. Or just say: 3x3 is 9 to the beat with t drum. Songs help us remember many things! Research says so. see more at

What is the best way to teach a 4th grader with ADD multiplication tables? He struggles with his lack of attention so memorization isn't working. Has the child been professionally diagnosed with ADD? It has been my experience that many children reputed to have ADD do not actually belong in this category. Some students have a very real need for a more chaotic environment than the average class affords. For example, in one of my special education 15:1:1 classes I had one Austic child who needed to stand up in the middle of each lesson two or three times, simply to walk over to me and hold on to my left hand for just under a minute. I had one child that had ADHD who simply could not sit through a class period, so she was allowed to walk in the classroom during a lesson, providing she did not interfere with other children in the class. Two, Michael and Darwin, functioned on a 3rd – 4th grade level. Yet as a team they functioned perfectly. Darwin was imaginative, could read but not write properly, and Michael could write, but not read properly. The Principal and vice principal could never believe the seeming controlled chaos they witnessed while standing at my doorway looking into my classroom. Yet, I assure you that each and every child in my class improved far beyond what was expected and teachers called me at home to let me know that Darwin had passed the NYC State English language Standardized test in Arts with a “2”. Burnout from lack of District, and school support began to set in, so I resigned from teaching. Privately, I was foster parent to Keith; a 15 year old who came to my house heavily dosed out on Ritalin because he had ADHD and tried to set his previous foster parent’s home on fire. My first action was to take Keith back to the psychologist and have him taken off Ritalin. The psychologist and I fought it out on Keith’s behalf, but thankfully he acquiesced. Keith’s challenges were exacerbated by his previous foster parent’s rule of not letting him see the only family he had, an older sister. So, I called her and laid down a few ground rules for Keith’s visit to her home. Keith agreed with the rules I set in place and all went well for about 6 months or so, when his mother from he had been taken by the state resurfaced and removed him from my home. The following day, Keith ended up in Brooklyn’s Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric wing. That Tuesday, at the Foster care Agency, my cousin, Brenda and I sat next to a crying mother. She was in tears because she had taken her son, Keith, out of a gentleman by the name of Mr. Romain’s house after six months of overall progress and improvement, only to have Keith end up in Bellevue. Of course, I was stunned that she was talking about me and it was Brenda who told her I was the person about whom she was speaking. She walked over to me and just cried on my shoulder. This is my long-winded way of stating the following… Find a qualified special education teacher in your vicinity who is willing to tutor your child. All the previous comments are good ones, however, when it comes to learning deficits, whether ADD, ADHD, Autism or any other challenge, generic prescriptions are not necessarily going to be helpful. There is no best way to teach your child because with your child, one size does not fit all. He/she requires individual assessment and attention. And nothing can replace the one and one interaction and connection that allows teacher and student to collaborate in creating new vistas of knowledge. I know. I used to be learning challenged, myself.


Thank you so much Dave for your comment here...I so agree...while many children will be agreable to even trying out some of the suggestions, my son who is in 4th grade is not.  But if I try to incorporate some touchy feely things and music and movement, he may respond.  Memorization works after a lot of battle, which I'm so tired of and I can't see that it's helping him because he doesn'retain what he just memorized!  Each child is unique, Praise God!  therefore each one needs special attention.  As a parent, he fighs me but I so want to help him.  He has ADHD and dyslexia and is anxious and has been taking Concerta for the past 4 years.  We've been able to take him off of it on weekends and summer except when he works with the most amazing tutor 2-3 times/week.  Then, we give him the short acting methylphenidate which does not suppress his apetite as much.  He has no other side effects from teh stimulant except maybe anxiety...not sure if that's from it or not, he stays anxious when off the meds.  He is quite defiant when it comes to doing homework, but I think my husband and i need to change our we teach him!  I just wanted to thank you and I will pray for you to be comforted in whatever teaching you are doing.  I praise the Lord that you have taught difficult kids in difficult situations and have cared for/taught/loved on LD teens too!  WOW!  You rock!

Involve as many senses as possible-- active learning with things to touch, feel and hear, Like marking the numbers & equations in salt, sand or shaving cream. Use groups of favorite items; recite multiplication poems or rhymes together. Try a T-stool for them to sit on.  Brainstorm for creative ideas that they can connect with.

 ADD individuals usually are more successful with lots of structure, so be patient, very consistent & persistent in your daily routines. Utilize the Precision Command program for discipline, which helps in predictability and defuse issues to more easily stay on track with tasks [internet sites to view:;;].  

Also be aware of the environment the student needs to work in; and their personal triggers that would distract, as ADD individuals often have heightened sensitivities.  Provide a study area free of lots of clutter: visually & physically.  

Allow them to chew gum, it helps them to focus better and be sure they drink plenty of water, as well. Many with ADD focus better if they read aloud.  

History has shown that brilliance is found through many learning-styled individuals and as a parent or educator, we can improve our awareness to help create a more ideal environment for students to maximize learning opportunities. 

I wouldn't actually worry so much about multiplication tables as much as his interest in learning and understanding the concept of multiplication (in 4th grade, that concept is still fairly new to most students). The manipulatives that Kevin suggested are a great idea, as is the music and movement that Bonnie suggested! Anything to get his body involved!

When it comes time for "studying" there are also some need attention diffusers that could be implemented, including white noise apps and modified study areas (to eliminate some of the visual distraction).

I agree whole-heatedly with the comment/answer above. The first step however is to inventory his/her strengths with a learning styles assessment. Here is a free and simple one provided by Pearson.

I think that regardless of the tactic used above, stress that multiplication IS "repeated addition" and have him/her choose the smaller of the two numbers and add the bigger number together, by the number of times quantified by the smaller number.

Movement, color and engagement may be helpful, provided that you use music that attracts his senses.  Try hopscotch times tables using a numbered carpet or create your own wherein he jumps in each square/number as he or you, recite the numbers. "JJ and Friends" has a wonderful CD/DVD "call and response" multiplication song.  While the Trinidadian accent may appear a bit thick, it is truly engaging and parents even like it.  Conga drums also may help as you drum and recite your way to success ( 2 x 2 , bop pa bop ___).  Take a smiling picture of your child next to a large multiplication poster.  Put a big "A+" on the poster so he may visualize success.  Finally, if at all possible, clear his system of milk, eggs, soy, white sugar, flour and meats.  You will be surprised how the body responds when filled with living substances like raw veggies and fruit. Remember, food is medicine.   Best of luck.

Lots of great advice and tips here, Sandra! I have loved using jumping rope and trampolines with students to reinforce rhythm and memory. Also, I have seen marked improvement in some ADD students who learn how to ''build' the multiplication chart on their own. Give them a blank chart up to 10 or 12 (your call), work TOGETHER to fill in the 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10....11 is usually pretty easy for kids to pick up on after that. Once the student sees what IS known, tackling the UNKNOWN is less scary! If your student is competitive, try to complete the initial chart in 10 minutes then decrease time from there. The goal? About 5 minutes for the entire chart! Super fast!  Let me know how this works! Also, fish oil can be a pretty good 'natural' remedy for some ADD sufferers, but please check with your doc! Good luck! :-)

Students with disabilities such as these are often missing key concepts because the school can't let them move while they learn. Find an activity that interests him and relate it to the multiplication to be sure he first understands the concept. Check his skip counting abilities. Can he skip count numbers through 10 or 15? Then, get him moving with the facts - songs, rhythms and other ways for them to move during his learning.

What works in other subjects?  Is he a visual, tactile, or auditory learner?  How long can he be engaged?  No two kids with ADD are alike--there is no "best" way that applies to all children!  I'd look for an approach that makes sense to him.  Every child deserves to be taught to his or her strengths.

I've worked in special education for years and have had a lot of luck with games!
If there is even the slightest element of competition, fun and prizes (candy, stickers, etc.) students LOVE to learn this way!
Using cards like these, I created a game in which the cards were separated and mixed up and students competed against one another to see who could match the correct answers the fastest. 
I have two boys who are ADHD as well, and I understand the frustration. Many of these are great tips and may work for your son. Another method is to teach him some cheats. For example by using the fingers on his hand, he can automatically know the answers to the nine's times table. What is nine time four. Have him set his hands out on the table and put the fourth finger down. He will have 3 fingers on the left. and six on the right. The answer is 36. 
Little rhymes to remember key numbers also helps. for example. "six and six pick up sticks, six times six is 36." or "eight and eight fell on the floor, eight times eight is 54." From this point he can count up or down easily enough to get some of the other numbers. 
I am not ADHD, but I have always struggled with numbers. I could not memorize the times tables, but these nifty tools got me through! 

The answers you have received make a lot of sense and are practiced all of the time depending on the child.

As a rule of thumb and most research suggests that in order to have accurate memory recall, focus and attention must be present. The presentation of material should also be appropriate for the child's learning style. Most teachers are trained in identifying a child's specific learning style. If your child has ADHD with or without Hyperactivity, chances are that your child's learning style is atypical and will require an intensive individualized learning environment. Sometimes medication can "untangle" focusing problems and control the attention deficit with regular use.

As both a therapist and an educator, I can tell you that if this child *does* in fact have ADHD, he will not succeed as easily without being on medication.

ADHD innattentive type (commonly referred to as ADD), is a brain issue.  Asking a child to learn without giving them a clear head is like asking a diabetic to run while having a bloof sugar issue, or asking a person with anxiety to just not shake while giving a presentation.  It's not fair because their brain is not working properly. 

Many parents are concerned about placing their child on a stimulant medication, but there is an alternative, a non-stimulant medication for ADHD now.  I would suggest a consult with a psychiatrist for a prescription.

Why not give this child what they need so they can simply learn like everyone else?  It will make their school and academic life significantly easier.



I would encourage changing the diet to clear the head before medication. Sugar, milk, and other food allergies keep the gut from digesting food properly. If the food isn't digesting properly, it cannot give the body the nutrients it needs, especially in the brain! Try a nutritionist and look at  for more natural answers. 

I have had success using  songs that the student likes (example singing 6,12,18,24....30,36,42,48.....54,60,66,72 now I know sixes through to "twinkle twinkle little star....try it!) You can pick a different  nursery rhyme for each number.  The repetition of singing make them automatic!