Finger Tables

I learnt this way of working out those tricky 6x 7x and 8x tables at a course a while back. I found it extremely complicated and far harder than just learning the tables – in fact I was the one at the back of the classroom looking puzzled, shaking  head and saying, “I just don’t get it.”  It gave me a real insight into how children must feel at school on occasions!

Anyway, I finally did pick it up, and although I’m not keen on it myself, the rest of the participants loved it. Some even said that they had already used it with some success, so I’m going to share it with you.

The first thing you need to do is give all your fingers a value from 6 (thumbs) to 10 (little fingers).

hands numbered for finger tables

Then you touch together the fingers with the numbers you want to multiply, so 8×8 is done  like this.

finger tables 8 x 8

finger tables 8 x 8So far, so good.  Then comes the bit I don’t like.  All the fingers now change values. The ones from the thumbs to those that are touching become 10s, so here I have 6 fingers (the two which are touching, two index fingers and two thumbs) which become 10s.    6 x 10 = 60.

Then I see how many fingers I have left on each hand – in this case two (ring finger and little finger) and I multiply them by each other: 2 x 2 = 4.

Finally, I add those two answers together.  60 + 4 = 64, so 8 x 8 = 64.

Here’s one more example. 7 x 9 = ?

finger tables 7 x 9I touch the two fingers together, and then give all my fingers from these to my thumbs a value of 10.  That’s 6 fingers, and 6 x 10 = 60.

Then I see how many fingers are left on each hand. I have  1 on my left hand (little finger), and 3 on my right hand middle finger, ring finger and little finger) and I multiply these  together:  1 x 3 = 3. I add the two answers together :  60 + 3 = 63 so 7 x 9 = 63.

It works, but I find it convoluted.  I much prefer to help children learn their tables by heart, using multisensory methods, and you will find my suggestions how to do that here.

What do you think? If any of you have used this method, or try it out after reading this post, I’d love to hear how you got on.

For maths and English tutoring in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall areas, visit For links to other interesting education related articles, come and Like my Facebook page.

Tips on how to teach your dyslexic child to read.

There are really some useful ideas in this post over at The Brain Gym Dublin for helping all readers, not just those with dyslexia.

Dyslexics have difficulty recalling words.

As soon as your child has learned enough common sight words if they continue reading very easy books every day they will usually be able to recall the words they have learned and gradually build up a reading vocabulary.

If your child reads only now and then, they will forget the words, begin substituting others, become discouraged and make little progress.”  To read the rest of this useful post, visit The Brain Gym Dublin.

What Will I Do Next?

The last few weeks have been language-filled. Over the summer holidays I taught, alongside a colleague, on a subject knowledge enhancement course at Newman University. The aim was to take people from long-forgotten GCSE French up to AS/A’ level standard in just two weeks. It was fun. It was also exhausting! Most of all though, it was rewarding to watch the final presentations to see how far they had come in a fortnight.

After that there was just one weekend to switch off before starting my next job, which was a 7 week contract at the Blue Coat School teaching French to years 2 and 6 and Spanish to years 4 and 5. That certainly kept me on my toes as lessons of the same language weren’t always blocked together, and lessons were quite short so I had to switch backwards and forwards between French and Spanish very quickly. The school staff and children were all lovely and I shall miss working there.

Then over the half term holidays was the Language Show, followed by writing up notes on all the things I’d learned to I can put them into practise, and some proofreading for my husband, who is a translator.

So – what’s next? Well, first of all a “rest” – I shall “relax” by looking into 11+ tuition, catching up on my BSL homework and hopefully doing some further studies about dyslexia). After that….

I’ve had a few enquiries for French and Spanish GCSE tuition so I shall see if I can convert some of those enquiries to bookings.  I shall also be continuing with private tuition for maths and English SATs. I have a waiting list at the moment, so I shall take a few more of those on.

If possible I’d also like to get some work experience in a Deaf school to put my BSL to use, so I shall try to find somewhere to let me volunteer.

Other than that…I’m open to offers!

If you need a teacher or tutor for maths, English, languages or dyslexia teaching then contact me via my website.

How Dyslexia Friendly are Your Documents?

Yesterday I attended a course on dyslexia, and the trainer gave us a few tips to make your documents easier to read and process for people with dyslexia. They are easy to implement and will have no, or very little, cost to you or your organisation.

One of the problems people with dyslexia have is glare from the paper. This can cause words to appear squashed together with big spaces between which sometime resemble rivers running down the page. To help counter this:

  • Use cream paper instead of white for hand-outs
  • Don’t cram too much text on a page. Leave plenty of space.
  • Use a minimum point size of 12 for printed documents and 28 for PowerPoint presentations.

It is difficult for them to distinguish between certain letters such as b and d, or p and q. Simple ways to help with this are:

  • Use a dyslexia-friendly font: Comic Sans, Tahoma, Verdana and Primary Sassoon are the best. In an emergency Arial will do, although the letters in Arial are less rounded so it is not quite so good.
  • Never use serif fonts (the ones with flicks) such as Times New Roman.
  • Never use block capitals for headings. Capitals have no ascenders (sticks up like in b d h) or descenders (tails below the line like in g p y) so it is harder to distinguish between the letters.
  • Never use underlining, because the line mixes in with the letters) or italics because that distorts the letter shapes. To emphasis a word or phrase use bold.

Finally, people with dyslexia find it difficult to track along a line of text and then back to the beginning of the next line. To help make this process easier:

  • Use a minimum line space of 1.5.
  • Avoid using columns as this means they have to track back more often.
  • Use bullet points to break up long, text heavy paragraphs.
  • Always left align documents rather than justifying it.
  • Don’t start a new sentence at the end of a line.

Many thanks to Rachel Ingham for these ideas. If you have any other ideas for making documents more dyslexia-friendly I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Related posts:
A Multisensory Approach to Spelling
A Multisensory Approach to Reading

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A MultiSensory Approach to Spelling

A friend of mine asked me for help because her daughter was struggling to learn her spellings. She was trying hard each week, but only getting 1 or 2 out of 10 in her spelling tests, and it was really upsetting her.

The recommended method for learning spellings is Look Cover Write Check (First of all look at the word really carefully. Notice the shape of it – how many letters have ascenders (sticks going up like in b and h) or descenders (sticks going down like in g and p). Notice which letters make each sound (is it ee ea or ie). Close your eyes and try to see the word in your head. Now cover the word and then write it. Check it to see if you got it right) and for most children this works. However some children need to learn spellings in a different way, and my friend’s daughter was one of these.

The first thing I did was to move the spellings away from the paper. We used magnetic letters to put her words on the fridge and then we were able to move the letters in the words further away from each other and closer together to look for patterns. By doing this, we were able to see groups of letters that were the same in all of the words, double letters, and words within words (eg together is to get her).

We then practised the spellings using different media, such as scrabble tiles, different coloured chalks on paving slabs, finger paints on different coloured paper, and water squeezed out of a bottle.

We also used an alternative to Look Cover Write Check which I picked up from a trainer on a training course run by the British Dyslexia Association: Watch Trace Copy Write Check. First she watched me write the word in cursive (joined up) writing, then she traced over it, feeling how the word flowed from the pen. Cursive writing is important as it in brings in muscle-memory. As she traced the word she said it aloud, sounding out the letters. This made it a multisensory experience because it combined seeing, hearing and doing. After this she copied the word, again saying it aloud and using cursive writing. After copying the word a few times, she covered it and wrote it from memory, still saying it aloud and sounding each letter as she wrote it. Finally she checked the word to see if she had written it correctly. Another tip I picked up on the BDA course was to tick each letter in the word that is correct, even if the word as a whole is wrong. This helps to reinforce all the parts of the word that are right, before going back to Watch Trace Copy Write and Check.

We colour-coded long vowel sounds to help visualise which groups of letters make a sound. For example we wrote
ee in green: green, keen, feed, sheet, between
ea in red: mean, clean, dream, bead
ey in blue: donkey, monkey, abbey, chimney
ie in yellow: chief, relief, believe, achievement
and grouped all the same coloured words together. This meant that when she tried to picture the word in her head to write it down, the colour would stand out and help her remember which two letters she needed. It also helped us to find patterns and rules. For example we found that the sound at the beginning of a word was usually made with ea: eager, each, easy, whereas ey came at the end of the word.

Another visualisation technique we used for particularly tricky words, was to throw the word at the wall. She looked at the word on paper, noting patterns of letters etc, and then ‘picked up’ the word from the page and ‘threw’ it at the wall opposite. From then on, every time she struggled with that word she would look at the wall and still see it there. I have heard of a similar technique from a dyslexia trainer who suggested writing the word on a piece of paper and sticking it on the wall in the corner towards the ceiling. To begin with the children copied the word from here. Interestingly, even after the paper was removed, the children would still look towards that spot when trying to spell the word, and they would write it correctly.

As we all know, English isn’t a language that follows rigid rules without exceptions, and some words do have some downright awful spellings. Mnemonics can be a useful tool to aid memory (for example SAID: It’s an ‘a’ and an ‘i’, And I don’t know why) but children need to be encouraged not to rely too heavily on these. If they use them, they need to be reminded to go back to the word when they have written it, and make sure it looks right. I have seen so many posters in so many classrooms exclaiming that Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants, and I have seen so many children write the word as ‘becaule’ because they mentally substitute ‘little’ for ‘small’. If they looked at the word again they would see that the ‘l’ didn’t make sense

My friend’s daughter stopped getting 1 or 2 out of 10 and started getting 9 or 10 out of 10. She still finds spelling difficult, maybe she always will, but she has improved – a lot. Her teachers now give her praise for the amount of effort she puts in. She has strategies now to help her spell words. Spellings homework has stopped being a time for battling with nonsensical groups of letters and of tears of frustration, and started being a time for having fun with words.  She’s a lot happier and more relaxed about writing these days. And that’s why I really love my job.

For maths or English tuition in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall area visit  For links to other interesting education related articles, come and Like my Facebook page.

Related post: A Multisensory Approach to Reading  Teaching the Times Tables