Speed! Skip-Counting to Multiplication

This video explains how the card game Speed! works to help kids boost their math skills.

From skip-counting to multiplication, division and fractions, this game is excellent for kids ages 4-12, or anyone learning addition through multiplication.

Speed! is a fast-paced card game that helps kids learn how to multiply. What it does is teaches skip-counting which is a fundamental skill that leads right into multiplication. Continuing to build on math skills, Speed! helps kids with division, factoring, reducing fractions, and the many math skills that build upon skip-counting. I want to show you how this works.

The game contains eight decks of cards, 2-9’s. Each deck is color coded and based on a different number. For example, the three—speed deck contains the numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, all the way up to 30. So playing 3-speed, kids learn to count by 3’s. Each deck is played the same way, only the numbers change. After kids master one deck, such as 3’s, they can move onto another deck, counting by 4’s or any number 2-9. Throughout this video, I will give examples referring to the 3-speed deck, but please keep in mind that the same principles apply to all decks. There is a video showing the game being played and I highly recommend viewing it if you haven’t yet.

A unique aspect of this game is that in order to win, kids not only need to know how to count higher by 3’s beginning with 3, but they need to be able to count higher by three starting with any multiple. That means they may start on 18 and count to 21, then 24.  They also need to be able to count backwards by 3’s starting on any multiple of three. In other words, they may start on 15, and count to 12, then 9. Kids play to win, not to memorize, but regardless of their reason, they are learning a critical skill.

After kids have played 3-Speed for a week or a month, or however long it takes them to get really fast they have memorized the answers to the 3 multiplication tables, but don’t necessarily understand the link between skip-counting and multiplication.

At this point, it’s a good idea to lay the cards out in order like this, and explain this is 3x1, 3x2, 3x3, 3x4, 3x5, all the way up to 30. Then after asking the child “what’s 3x6?”, they can point and say 18. “What is 3x8?” Well it’s 24.

Now the kids will begin to understand the link between skip-counting and multiplication, and it’s a good time to go back to playing the game. After all, the game is the drill work of multiplication and it’s the fun part. Kids are playing to win, and not to learn, but they are learning and that’s why it works.

Some kids will understand immediately and not need any flash card work to make the transition into multiplication. Others will still need some time with flash cards, but since they are already familiar with the answers to the multiplication tables, the time spent with flash cards should be greatly reduced. Sticking with one deck and mastering the corresponding set of multiplication tables before moving on to another deck will result in a greater reduction of time spent with flash cards since there are less numbers in their head from which to select an answer.

Learning division works the same way. Again, with the cards laid out in order, if the child is asked “what’s 24 divided by 3?”, they can count, 1,2,3,… it’s 8. What’s 12 divided by 3, It’s 4.

It’s best to begin with the 2’s or the 5’s because they are easiest, and concentrate on one deck of cards until it is mastered. Concentrating on one deck of cards reduces the number of options for answers and helps kids to create number associations.

In addition to building recognition within number families, kids that play a lot of Speed begin to  recognize patterns between the decks. When playing 3-Speed, they might say, well wait a minute, a lot of these numbers are in 6-Speed!, Six-Speed has a 6, 12, 18, 24, and 30. Those numbers are in both 3 and 6 Speed…. and wow! A bunch of these numbers are in 9-speed too. Nine-Speed has a 9, 18, 27. It’s unconsciously making number associations between different decks that can really help kids to boost their math skills.

Now when they get into higher level math such as reducing fractions, they might have to reduce the fraction 6/21. So then they think, wait a minute, both of those numbers were in 3-speed. There is a relationship between those numbers, and the common number is 3. The fraction 6/21 can be reduced to 1,2…..7ths.

When my own kids were around the age of 7 or 8, we played Speed! every day for about 4-6 months straight. It was our math curriculum. Each day, I would lay the cards out in order and quiz them orally on multiplication for about 1 minute. Then we would play Speed! for about 15 minutes concentrating on one deck until it was mastered. This emphasis on skip-counting and number association allowed all three of my very different children to fly through many math concepts.

I recommend this game for kids ages 4 through 12 or for anyone learning addition up through multiplication. As soon as kids have an attention span, a desire to play games, and can count they are ready. The 2’s and 5’s are easiest, so they are the best decks to start with. When kids are learning addition, they are ready to begin counting by 2’s.

We used this game as our primary method for teaching multiplication. Other families have used Speed! on family game night, to improve or review multiplication, to gain a good number sense, or as a fun way to work on math over the summer. Since there are 8 decks of cards in the set, 16 kids can play at one time making the game a great option for co-ops and schools.

Remember, kids play because it’s fun and they want to win. Not because they want to boost their math skills, not to learn multiplication, but they do. So have fun with it. Thanks for watching.

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