I have been thinking about and searching how to start teaching my older kids multiplication recently. What methods should I use? I may need to pull out my secret weapons of doing quick Math — Chinese multiplication table.
That’s how I learned multiplication when I grew up in Hong Kong.
But is it the best method to teach my kids multiplication? Do I need to teach my kids multiplication in Chinese or in another way?
In this blog post, I’m going to show you five steps to help kids memorize the Chinese Multiplication Table with other useful resources as well.
If you are interested to teach multiplication in the Chinese way, I also created a FREEBIE for you to download at the end of this blog post. Don’t miss it!
The post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. If you make a purchase through a link. See the Disclosure for more details.
Table of Contents
What is the Chinese Multiplication Table?
Chinese Multiplication Table has a total of eighty-one terms. It is a quick and easy way to do any single-digit multiplication in your head or out loud, so most of the elementary students still memorize it today.
It was often called the nine-nine table (乘數表), simply nine-nine, little nine-nine 九九乘法口訣 (小九九 in short), or even the nine-nine song or poem (九因歌).
And it was known in China as early as the Spring and Autumn period 春秋時代 (approximately 771 to 476 BC (Sauce: Wikipedia).
The Chinese Multiplication Table can be read in Cantonese and Mandarin.
How does the Chinese Multiplication Table work?
The Pattern inside the Multiplication Table
First, you have to repeatedly say it out loud and memorize it like a rhyme. The whole table begins with 1 times 1 equals 1, and ends with 9 times 9 equals 81.
The interesting thing about using the Chinese Multiplication Table is that it consists of four or five Chinese characters per line only. It creates a constant rhythm like a poem or a song.
So try to say it out loud, and you will find the same pattern and rhythm throughout the whole table. It utilizes our sense of hearing and makes it more fun and easier when it comes to memorization.
Imagine each song consists of the following pattern:
A= Chinese numbers B = a Chinese character C = another group of Chinese numbers
The Chinese Characters Inside the Multiplication Table
There are different versions of the Chinese Multiplication Table out there for us to learn. The only difference between the different versions is the Chinese characters that are being used. But they all provide the same meaning and create a constant rhythm for the whole table, so feel free to choose whatever versions that you like.
With the version that I used, there is a total of three Chinese characters “如, 得, 中” are being used. All of them have the meaning of “to get” or “equal”.
I’m really not sure why the ancient Chinese picked these three characters, but they all create a great rhyme for the whole multiplication table.
The Simplified Way to Solve Multiplication Problems Quick
In case you have no idea, each Chinese number consists of only one syllable, so it is faster to say the whole thing and get the answer in Chinese than English.
So when my 8-year-old kid forgot the answer of two times four, and then she would have to backtrack from the beginning of the two’s, until she got the answer.
Since reading in Chinese is faster than English, she was able to get her answer faster when using the Chinese Multiplication Table. It’s the same way for myself as well.
Example: Two times one equal to two (2 x 1 = 2)
7 syllables for English
4 syllables for Chinese
How do Chinese speakers and English speakers memorize the multiplication table?
I have asked my husband how he learned multiplication in the U.S., and I guess the way he learned was to look at the table every day until he remembered it. Most likely, the teachers provided a 1-minute quiz every day or games to make sure all the students got it.
Of course, before they started memorizing it, they learned about skipping. They learned about the 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s first. And then eventually they learned the rest of the numbers. And they become the answer to multiplication.
But for Chinese speakers, the Chinese Multiplication Rhyme consists of logical rhymes to help us memorize. And because of shorter syllables, it helps solve math problems much quicker.
Do you know any other methods people around the world use to memorize Multiplication?
Steps to help kids memorize the Chinese Multiplication table
Children need to know why they need to learn times tables
Before introducing the multiplication table, you may want to explain why we need to learn and recite it.
Use objects around the house to show your kids the relationship between addition and multiplication.
For example, put the box of strawberries on the table, and let your kids count the total numbers of it. And then show them how to count it with multiplication quickly.
Understand and pronounce all the characters in Chinese
Learn how to pronounce the Chinese numbers (1-90) and the Chinese characters from the Chinese Multiplication Table.
Rhythm to the rhyme
It’s time to add some beat in the rhyme. Read it with clapping hands, moving the body, even add some simple instruments to help your kids feel the rhythm. Practice it all the time until it sounds like singing along with their favorite song.
Apply the time tables knowledge
Your child must apply the knowledge from memorizing the Multiplication Table, if not it will only become tons of numbers with rhyme. Test your child with daily tasks from going shopping to cooking at home.
Solidly with using resources
Even though using the Chinese Multiplication Table is a great tool, it can be boring sometimes. I use the following resources to enhance learning Multiplication.
- Try to memorize it with fun games
- Compete with someone (e.g. siblings, classmates, friends, etc)
- Use flashcards to write down all problems (e.g.: 2×1), and then use one minute to see how many flashcards you can answer correctly.
- 1-Minute Multiplication quiz
- Do it with your child
- Reward system
How memorizing the Chinese Multiplication table helps to learn Chinese
Learning Chinese Numbers
Before memorizing the multiplication table, learning the meaning and pronouncing the numbers in Chinese is the very first step. After memorizing the whole table, you actually get way up to ninety-nine in terms of Chinese numbers.
First Poem to Learn
There are a lot of Chinese poems that all parents or teachers want kids to learn. However, memorizing poems in a foreign language and pronunciation can be difficult. The Chinese Multiplication Rhyme is very easy to learn with repeated Chinese numbers only. So it is a great option for your kids’ first Chinese poem.
Sing with a Tonal Language
Since Chinese is a tonal language, so when we sing in Chinese, the pronunciation of each character may change and follow with the melody of the song without changing the meaning. So learning Chinese Multiplication will provide your kids experience with singing in Chinese.
All Chinese people know about it
You will gain cultural experience by learning how the Chinese learn multiplication. You can easily talk to any Chinese person about it and start a conversation with them.
Can Non-Native Chinese Parents use the Chinese Multiplication Table to Teach their Kids?
Kids love music and songs. And you can treat it like a nursery song that helps your kids do any single-digit multiplication in their head quickly and easily.
You can simply teach them the Multiplication Table in Chinese only and use your native language to do the rest of the math problem.
That’s how my kids do their math in English and Chinese. They use English to do all the math, but knowing Chinese is great to gain more understanding of some terms from a Chinese perspective. So they would flip from English to Chinese whenever they need to solve the multiplication problem quickly.
Also, it is important for them to know the basic vocabulary for communication.
Therefore, I created a set of printables for you to learn so you can teach your kids the Chinese Multiplication Table.
Videos: Chinese Multiplication Table Songs
Chinese Multiplication Table Printable
In the Chinese Multiplication Table Printable, It includes over 20+ pages of :
- 1-9 Multiplication Poster (Colors only)
- 1-9 Multiplication Mini-cards (Colors and Black & White)
- 1-9 Multiplication Bookmarks (Colors and Black & White)
Four language versions are included.
Even non-Chinese speakers can pick the pinyin one and understand know to pronounce it and use it.
How the Chinese Multiplication Table printables work?
- Hang up the Posters
- Cut and Laminate the mini-cards. Punch a hole on the left corners of all the cards and put a ringlet on. Turn it into a mini Chinese multiplication table flip-book.
- Use the bookmark when they are reading whatever they like.
- Use any of the black and white printable as coloring pages for my kids to color on their own or as a family.
- They will receive a coloring page after they finish each section.
Do you have any more ideas? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below.
Freebies: Chinese Multiplication Table Posters
In the freebies, you are going to receive:
- 1’s, 2’s, 3’s Chinese Multiplication Table Posters
- Traditional Chinese & Simplified Chinese
You Might be Interested:
- An Interview about My Homeschooling life in Hong Kong
- Homeschooling in Hong Kong: The Fortune Cookie Mom from Honey! I’m Homeschooling My Kids
- Why Chinese Kids are Faster at Math from Yoyo Chinese
You Are Not Doing it Alone
Join my Facebook support group to meet and get connections with parents and educators with the same goals.
身为职业妈妈的我,常常牺牲睡眠来自作教材。版主全方位学习的新年教材真让我省下不少宝贵的时间找资料。四岁的女儿对中文学习有点抗拒。我们善用版主提供的迷你故事书和生字卡来增强她对语文的认识。版主的中文单词棋盘游戏更让女儿投入学习, 因为她想赢嘛！版主的教材可让小孩边玩边学, 太棒了。
This is the second 5-Day Challenge that we have done with Fortune Cookie Mom. Both have been very beneficial to our family. I am a homeschool mom of three little kids. We are not Chinese and do not speak any Chinese. With the help of Fortune Cookie Mom, we are slowly learning! The challenges have given me fun activities to do at home with the kids. Each one has reignited my kid's interest in learning. It has been a fun experience for everybody!