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Educational Dinnerware: TheMultiples

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When many of us were growing up, learning the multiplication tables was an important part of elementary school alongside state capitals and how to fold paper fortune-tellers. With the advent of calculators, students began to ask, “Why do I need to memorize four times seven when I can just type it in?” Teachers often reply that we may not always have calculators on us, though the ubiquity of cell phones has somewhat nullified that issue. More importantly, we should learn our multiplication tables because it makes us better, smarter, more interesting people who can use calculators but do not have to rely on them.

Multiples Year1 Set owlplateMuch of the issue of mathematical struggles today is the problem of the solitary nature of memorization and application. If a student knows the multiplication tables, it is well and good for tests, but it rarely becomes useful in our day-to-day social lives. A teacher in England has tackled this problem by bringing cartoon characters to that most social of arenas—the dinner  table—with theMultiples.

While students eat and talk, they are presented with the multiples of one through twelve presented by international characters such as Professor One Hoot, Bugsy Eight Hops, and Inspector Eleven, who bring another level of storytelling to the usually one-dimensional study of numbers. These characters correlate to lesson plans and a wall poster that students will be familiar with from the class and are brought out into the world in the form of plates, bowls, and cups.

Dinnerware from theMultiples is made with BPA-free melamine, which can be dropped or even thrown without any damage. The plastic is durable enough for the dishwasher, though users may wish to hand-wash or use the light china cycle to ensure the longevity of character faces. The microwave is not recommended. Parents concerned about plastic migrating into food should note that FDA trials showed it happening only under extreme conditions. Even so, avoiding acidic foods like fruits or juice while using melamine will eliminate even that miniscule amount of migration.

Experiments in schools have met with overwhelming success. Students with different plates are eager to quiz each other on six times seven. This is a rapid change from the typical response to wishing to leave studying to the classroom. Instead, students have even created games racing each other and have worked to memorize all the way to twelve times twelve to ensure they have the sharpest mathematical mind. In an interview, one teacher joked that she was even tired of hearing the times tables.

Outside of schools, theMultiples dinnerware is effective in continuing learning at home. Parents, grandparents, and homeschoolers have had solid success making the multiplication tables into social learning by using the images from the plates and cups for discussion. Mathematics no longer has to be relegated to solitary, sometimes frustrating, study. Numbers can be fun; we just have to treat them that way.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.