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Times Tales Deluxe Edition Review by Donna Campos

J. von Eggers, M. J. Flanagan, and Dena L. Wood
Trigger Memory Systems
533 NE 35th Street
Pendleton, OR 97801

Times Tales Deluxe is designed to help your child learn multiplication tables and division facts for the upper 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. (The standard version includes multiplication only.) The program includes a sturdy 2 Part Flipchart, Trigger Memory & Regular Flashcards for both multiplication and division, a Roll 'Em Cube Game, instructions and Memory Story Discussion Guide in one Manual, and 2 copies each of the Multiplication Practice Test, the Division Practice Test, a Multiplication Test Challenge, and a Division Test Challenge. No other materials are necessary; however, a Mini Flipbook is available for a small additional fee. This miniature version of the large Flip Chart (without instruction pages) would be an excellent tool for the student. The program is non-consumable, so it can be used for years by multiple students. The Roll 'Em Cube Game is printed on one sheet of cardstock, and the instructions for playing the game and for assembling the cubes are all included on the single sheet. The Flashcards have a symbol problem on one side and a number problem on the other. The Flip Chart includes one page for each problem; one side shows the visual mnemonic story with words, and the other side shows the story without words. The entire program can be easily stored in a large manila envelope.

Children generally learn multiplication tables between 2nd and 4th grades, but the program is adaptable for any age group, including adults and special needs children. "Mnemonics" is simply a system to help improve memory. Times Tales uses picture cues and a memorable story to represent each multiplication problem. By focusing on only the upper 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s, the creators are targeting the problems most children find difficult to memorize. To begin, the parent uses the Flip Chart to present the four number symbols that will be used throughout the program. Once the student has learned these symbols, the second step is to read the memory stories for each fact. The Memory Story Guide then offers a more in-depth discussion of the story, including discussion questions to help solidify the story in the student's mind. The Flip Chart includes the memory stories without the text to enable the student to retell the story. Once the teacher is sure that the student fully understands the memory story for each math fact, the Trigger Memory Flashcards are used. These cards utilize the number symbol names, but you will call them by number unless the child needs a hint to recall the memory story. Once your student is doing well with the pictured flash cards, simply move to the regular flashcards to verify full understanding. Then test your student for complete verification. You can complete the entire program in one hour.

The division facts portion utilizes the same memory stories but removes one number from each one. For instance, the child has learned that Mr. Snowman and Mrs. Snowman eat 64 snow-cones daily. When presented with a division picture of Mrs. Snowman alone, the student recalls that one 8 is missing. The Division portion of the program is smoothly done and is an understandable next step to the learning process.

Both auditory and visual learners should enjoy this program. The design of the drawings is very simplistic and does not distract from the task at hand. Because the presentation is easy to understand, younger children would be able to learn the upper multiplication facts. You do not even need to tell the student that he or she is going to learn multiplication facts. You simply work through the process (teach the symbols, tell the stories, present the pictures), and suddenly they are learning the facts.

I was excited to review this product, as it gave me an excuse to quiz my 16-year-old, who absolutely hates the higher-level math facts. She gawked at the simplicity as I proceeded through the program with my 8-year-old, but I enjoyed watching her eyebrows rise in recognition of the adorable stories as they held his attention and gained hers. As a high functioning autistic, my 8-year-old has learning delays and sensory issues. Too much distraction can be a problem for him. The pictures in the Times Tales program are ideal for his learning needs. He understood the number value of each number symbol and enjoyed the characterization offered in each one. He was able to retell each story easily and quickly, usually after only three readings of each one. We chose to complete only three stories at a time rather than doing a full hour in one sitting, but I fully expect many children will, indeed, be able to learn these facts in a single hour using this program. It is incredibly simple to use and can be implemented just about anywhere--at a table or desk, on the couch, or at a soccer game.

The tree house number symbol for the number 9 was a little vague and hard to picture compared to the other number symbols, but my son understood it. The regular flash cards are almost annoying, as the program is such a wonderful way to learn without them. Having to finish the process using them was almost disappointing. I wish the flash cards had been done in the same flip chart format as the memory stories. The Mini Flip book is absolutely excellent and really should be included as part of the package. I should also note that the program is available in a Small Group version that includes five of the Mini Books. I would purchase the small group version just because all of my children will enjoy keeping the books, and it is certainly ideal for co-ops and larger families. As mentioned previously, the program is non-consumable, which is excellent! (This program is so fantastic that even when I'm running through any negatives, I am automatically drawn back to the positives.) The Flip Chart pages are durable, with a plastic coated finish, and the spiral binding on both the large and small Flip Charts are completely flip friendly, without any annoying stop points to slow you or your child down.

For families who desire to solidify upper multiplication tables, Times Tales is a must-have! It offers an excellent memory system for use with any math curriculum. And it is reasonably priced. I wish this company had a product for every subject area. I can only imagine the many things my children would easily learn if I had simple stories like these for historical events or the elements on the periodic table. But wait, my ever-creative son has fallen in love with this style of learning and is already busy working at new methods that will help him retain information more easily. This program has lit a fire in his imagination! Our time spent with Times Tales was well worth it!

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2008