Set up a memory palace for Times Tables (kids)

(Gavin Whittaker) #1

Hi there,

I’m new to this site and was wondering. how would you set up a memory palace for kids times tables?

I have a 7 year old daughter who has Dyslexia and she really struggles with both spelling and times tables.

I have a VR rig at home and was going to create a “virtual space” memory palace for her to become familiar with in order to learn her 1 - 12 times tables.

I guess i have 2 key questions which i would like to seek advice from those that have experience with this …

  1. i was going to use the number mnemonics 0 through 9 and create virtual objects that can be placed in loci around the palace - do you think this would be the best way (she is only 7yr old so thought 0-9 and combine them would be better than trying to get her to first commit 00-99 to memory)

  2. i would like to seek your advice about how i should set up the space? - should i try to recreate the table structure inside the palace/space or layout somehow different? - would like to make it as easy as possible for her to find the correct loci for a number (2X3 = vs just as easily find 7X9)…

Hope this makes sense?

After this I would like to figure out setting up spaces to learn to spell as she really struggles to retain spellings (in fact if anyone has any good resources on committing spellings to memory that would also be greatly appreciated).

Many Thanks

(Josh Cohen) #2

I don’t know if it would help, but I learned them by chanting them repeatedly when I was a kid. For most of my life, I’ve just gone back to the chant to find the answers.

If I hear “six times eight”, my brain completes it: “six times eight is forty-eight”. If I hear “eight times six” I reverse the numbers so that the sub-vocalization is “six times eight”, which leads me to the answer.

I learned the 9s by learning that the 10s place increases by 1 and the 1s place decreases by 1:


It’s kind of like recalling song lyrics by playing a song back in my mind, and I still remember the chants in my 40s.


Definitely double digits… it’ll be super confusing to run into the same images in different combinations over and over and over… especially if you’re dyslexic to begin with.

Maybe better to only go up to 5 x 5 with memorization, which is really all that is needed in the decimal system anyway. Your example of 7 x 9 can then be solved as follows:

7 - 3
9 - 1

Imagine 7 x 9 on top of each other as shown above. Add on the right-hand-side the distance to your base 10 for both (10 - 3 = 7 and 10 - 1 = 9). Cross subtract to get the left-hand-side… either 7 - 1 or 9 - 3 will give you 6. For the right-hand-side just multiply 3 x 1.

Ultimately, just simple subtraction and then using the times table up to 5 x 5 that you have memorized. Going up to 5 x 5 instead of 10 x 10 cuts down 75% on memorization. Or even less if you always rearrange them low to high, so that 3 x 2 will be 2 x 3 instead.

Note that for less than 7 x 7 you have to carry the tenth digit, so for…

7 - 3
6 - 4

…it’ll be 7 - 4 or 6 - 3 across to get 3 for the left-hand-side and then 3 x 4 = 12 with the 2 on the right-hand-side and the 1 getting added on top of the 3 for the left-hand-side to get 4.

Re-use the number system you’ve set up to to learn the braille alphabet. That way there will be distinct images for each letter and dyslexia problems like b vs d, etc will not be an issue. Then just spell out the words as images in a memory palace.



Considering that 1 x anything is trivial, that leaves you with only 10 values to memorize… if not to say 6 since doubling isn’t really hard either. I’ve highlighted the squares and if you are interested in working on those in the future, there is a thread here that covers them up to 100²:

(Pugna) #5

Not a mnemonic but for multiples of nine, I use my fingers.

||||/ |||| Two hands.
9x4, bend the fourth finger.
|||o/ ||||
Bend the fourth finger. 3 on one side, 6 on the other.

(Gavin Whittaker) #6

Thanks for the support guys, much appreciated! :slight_smile:

(Gavin Whittaker) #7

Quick update: i found a great resource called “Times Tales” which has worked great - my daughter has her upper times tables down now so a definate win (previously she just could not use conventional techniqes for rote memorisation as just did not work) this uses stories to build lasting memories and has worked brilliant.

Cheers for the suggestions :slight_smile:

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If anybody is interested in the Times Tales method, here’s a YouTube video with a few examples. Not sure I find the stories too memorable though… they seem to be missing some internal logic.

Third example could well be a 4th grade class giving 5 bananas to 6 monkeys and then 4 x 9 = 56, which is a bit wrong. They’re really just stories with nothing that really gives an assist… okay, maybe Mrs. Week being number 7 because there’s 7 days in a week.

What do others thing of the stories they use?

9 x 9
There were two Treehouses. The first Treehouse grew 8 apples and the second grew only 1 apple.

7 x 9
Mrs. Week went to the Treehouse and raked up 6 bags of leaves by 3 o’clock.

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That’s what we did for the tables.

My Mother told me that most of what she learned was done by chanting. For example, “Battle of Hastings - 1066”, “Union of the crowns - 1603”. “Capital of China - Peking” (as it used to be). So, I knew these things from my Mother before I learned them at school.

I was luckier. My first school chanted the much simpler

  • six eights forty-eight

You can see that’s only half the length of your method - and therefore is less work on the memory.

My second school used your longer method, and I definitely found tables more difficult to memorize. Of course, you might reply that the tables were more difficult because the base multiplicand increases as kids get older.

I wasn’t allowed to recite the brief method, because the sentences were incomplete. So I learned the tables at home using the brief method, then recited them at school using the longer method. My dishonesty is surpassed only by my great beauty.

All tables exhibit a similar characteristic. Kids should be taught to look for tricks like that. I think kids enjoy tricks.

Example for 7’s, the product reduces by 3.

Note that the reduction in the product =

  • (10 - base multiplicand)

So, if the base multiplicand is 10, the unit of the product is 0. If the base multiplicand is GT 10, the sign is negative, so the units of the product INCREASE when the multiplier increases. All these features should be highlighted to kids. The sooner they realize that maths is a magical world of fun and games - the more likely they are to succeed in life.

Note to JC: the spell checker is challenging my “realize”. But it accepts Bill’s “realise” (so called, because the entire dictionary in Word for Windows for Brits only contains “-ise” rather than the Oxbridge “-ize”. Now the entire population of Britland below the age of 75 spells every word with “-ise”.). I forget what you told me when I mentioned this previously. Do you know a good site where I can get help to remember things?

Interesting. I can definitely remember doing the mental chants as you say.

But only at this instant, I realise that the chants must have gradually disappeared some time ago. Now I jump directly to the product. So the connecting audio link in memory is now being bypassed. I wonder what will happen in a few years’ time. I might have forgotten the product, and be forced to revert to the chant - if I can remember the chant.

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For the benefit of the folks here, here’s a link that attempts to demonstrate how dyslexic people see words:

As an alternative to palaces, you might want to consider spaced repetition for spelling. Here’s a link to a dyslexia blog that mentions Anki (but doesn’t actually describe how to use it specifically for dyslexia):

You could create cards in Anki, where the “front” of each card contains the word of interest, for example “dog”. For the back of each card, I can think of two possibilities:

  • An audio snippet of “dog”, followed by the spelling “d-o-g”. The preparation of the audio snippets might be time-consuming. But libraries of such snippets might already exist.

  • The same principle as the previous bullet, but someone with normal reading abilities simply reads the front of the card and says “dog” followed by “d-o-g”. Note that the back of the card is empty, so that’s a time saver.

The advantages of SR over palaces is that easier words are pushed into the future more rapidly than difficult words. This is because Anki’s review process is “just in time”. In other words, Anki presents a card just before you are about to forget it. Different people will be presented with different personalized review intervals for exactly the same cards. It’s not the automatic 1-2-4-8… intervals that we used 50 years ago with paper cards.

Here’s a link to simple “C-V-C” words (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant):

(Josh Cohen) #11

Is it the spellchecker in the browser? If you right-click in a textarea it should bring up a menu like in the screenshot below where you can change the dictionary. Sometimes mine switches to British spelling and I have to reset it. The screenshot below is how it looks in Firefox, but it works for Google Chrome too.


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