. Meteoric learning of multiplication tables ...

Can you spot the pattern: 1. Raspberry printed pinapple 2. Black hole 3. Whale 4. Bowl of petunias 5. Fridge? The clue is that they're all being used to intercept asteroids. And learn multiplication tables at the same time!

Here's a youtube video showing the action

And here's a link to the Android app on Play (free version doesn't save)

This is a 'pet hate' of mine: Lots of people think they are bad at math(s) because they spent too much time at primary (elementary) school learning times tables and not enough (or any) time gaining a few fundamental concepts.

Certainly I think it is vital that everybody learns the times tables but this is a basic life-skill such as being able to cross the road safely, tie shoe-laces or buy a train ticket... it doesn't have much to do with math(s).

However the way that times tables are taught at school leaves much to be desired.

It is presented as a mammoth list of 144 products generally worked though in ascending order: one one is one, two ones are two, three ones are three... five eights are forty, six eights are forty eight... twelve twelves are a hundred and forty four. The trouble with this is that it's possible to learn a long monologue such as a poem but not be able to recall individual parts at will - you have to work your way through from the beginning of a verse to get to the line you want. Many children start off (or never get beyond) reconstructing the required product by 'counting up' the whole table from the beginning!

If you take out all the duplicates from the 1 to 12 times tables, and take out 1x 10x 11x (up to 11x9) and the 'easy' 5x then there are just forty products to learn, adding in eight useful number bonds makes the 48 levels used in the Meteorize game.

If you want to play the game on Android then you can download it from play.google.com as above. However the game will run on linux (and specifically the Raspberry Pi) and probably OSX if you install pi3d following instructions here http://pi3d.github.io/html/ReadMe.html then install the source code - either git cloning or downloading the zip from https://github.com/paddywwoof/transcendental-fruit.git

And what fundamental mathematics concepts should kids learn? Well most of them can be learned by playing with a calculator from day one rather than all the physical maths aids that are used now. Calculators show:

  • there is only one 'divide' rather than the host of ways that have evolved in mathematical notation
  • there is only one 'multiply'
  • divide is the reverse function of multiply not something to do with sharing things equally or cutting up pies
  • mathematical functions are best thought of as abstract processes that happen in a 'black box' and are defined by what they do rather than what they are