Can Adele teach your child the multiplication tables? Yes, says Rachel Tan, founder and owner of The Alternative Education, who shares her strategies to help students with dyslexia, ADHD, and ASD learn better

Around the world, about 10 per cent of the population has dyslexia. People with this learning “difference” may find it harder to read, write and/or spell even though the condition has nothing to do with the person’s intelligence. For children, the learning difficulties range from mild (occasional errors in spelling), to severe (inability to read simple three-letter words such as ‘pin’ even at the age of 10 due to a lack of intervention).


When I was a Senior Educational Therapist with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore, I taught Mathematics to children with dyslexia. At that time there was no specific method to teach the multiplication tables. The traditional method of memorising didn’t work.

We were encouraged to use “multi-sensory methods of learning”. This means using different senses to engage the student. So I did this by using the senses of hearing (music) and sight (lyrics) to teach Maths through music videos.

Alternative Learning that Works

For two of my students, Matthew and Aniq, this worked very well and they quickly managed to remember their times tables. Their parents were pleasantly surprised. Margaret Ching, Matthew’s mother, commented, “We were amazed and happy with the turnaround and improvement he made when he responded to the songs with times-table as the lyrics. We would encourage parents to try new things, if one way doesn’t work, try and try again; after all, each child is different.”

Lilys Amirah, Aniq’s mother, said “if I had known that learning times table could be so fun, I would have used it from the start.” Here’s how we did it. I will be sharing three methods that not only work well for kids with dyslexia, but also for any child who has difficulty in Mathematics and English:

1. Use Music for Maths

Even at Primary 4, Matthew could not remember the times tables no matter how hard he tried to memorise them. I researched and found several times table songs on YouTube that I showed him. Within two weeks, he had the four times table down pat.

Another student felt that these YouTube times table music videos were too “childish”. So I decided to replace pop song lyrics with the times tables. For example, I set the seven times table to Adele’s ‘Hello’.

If you google “Adele seven times table”, you can watch my YouTube video (see above). This has garnered 140,000 views (and counting) and is helping students around the world learn the seven times tables easily.

2. Use Memory Games for Times Tables

Aniq was in Primary 3 when I first met him. He too, could not remember his multiplication tables. However, he was not interested in music so the YouTube videos did not work for him. I decided to create a game to help him learn.

This is essentially a memory game. You first flip a blue card which shows you “6 x 3”. Then you flip a yellow card, and if it has the number “18” on it, which is the right answer, you get to keep the cards. The person with the most cards wins.

Within a week or two of playing it daily with him, Aniq could remember his times tables very well. You can easily make this game to play with your child. All you need are coloured cards!

3. Try Paired Reading for English

Source

Apart from Mathematics, parents can also help their children with dyslexia improve in English. Paired reading is a technique that works well with younger children (from kindergarten to Primary 2) who are learning how to read.

It involves an experienced other, usually the parent, reading a book aloud together with the child. When the child gets into the swing of things, midway through the story, the experienced other might choose to stop reading and allow the child to read independently.

When the child comes across a difficult word, the experienced other will step in to assist, and continue reading. This helps develop the child’s confidence in reading. You can watch a detailed example of this sort of paired reading in this 13-minute YouTube video.

Doing this paired reading just five to 10 minutes a day (why not make it a bedtime routine?) allows the child to have daily exposure to the written word. In the long run, this will help improve his or her command of the English language.

I would recommend starting at a level slightly below the child’s reading ability in order to let them gain confidence in reading. Then when the child is more able, slowly try books of greater difficulty.

Parents should also take note not to chide the child for not knowing how to read, even if it is a simple word. Instead, encourage the child to try and sound it out. And if the child needs help doing that, offer the help.

In addition, I would suggest allowing your child to choose the book he/she wants to read. Giving your child the autonomy to choose will help encourage a love of reading.

This method can be trying and yes it does require a lot of patience. However, the end result of eventually seeing your son or daughter read independently and loving books is definitely worth the effort.

4. Bonus Tip – Use the Merriam-Webster Mobile App

Your child may sometimes ask you for the right pronunciation or meaning of a particular word. Why not harness technology to help them with that? As most families have at least one mobile device, I suggest downloading the Merriam-Webster mobile app (available for both Android and iPhone) which I use with my students on a frequent basis. This combines a dictionary and thesaurus and it also has has a pronunciation guide for harder-to-read words. I find it a helpful tool for any child with dyslexia to learn more independently.

I hope these few tips will help making learning a more enjoyable experience for your child. Have fun trying them out!

This article was contributed by Rachel Tan, founder and owner of The Alternative Education, which provides multi-sensory educational therapy/tuition for students with dyslexia, ADHD, and ASD.

Header image: Patrick Fore
Feature image: Robert Collins