We spoke to Marillee and Jennie from Times Tales about the program’s origins and their interest in education and ensuring success for homeschoolers.
Times Tales helps students memorize their multiplication tables using creative stories to drive the facts home. The company was started by sisters Marillee and Jennie, who have worked together for years now. Times Tales has proven to be a useful resource for homeschoolers and parents looking to improve their children’s memorization of the times tables! Read more to learn how the company started.
Did your passion for education start with homeschooling?
Marillee: When I began my homeschool journey I was pretty ignorant of what kinds of curriculum were available to homeschoolers. I pretty much stuck with what was recommended to me by other homeschoolers and curriculum that had been around for a while. As the years went by and the course work got harder, I felt the burden of their education was all on me. Many of the tried and true workbooks and curriculums were just not working for a couple of my children.
Thankfully, I had a good homeschool support group in my area and a drive to think out-of-the-box so I found success teaching them some of the harder concepts. Just like Times Tales is an unconventional way of learning your times tables, I was always trying to find creative ways for them to learn. Over the years I have grown to love teaching children and taking little opportunities throughout the day make learning fun!
How did you get started with Times Tales? How did homeschooling play a part in creating Times Tales?
Jennie: Homeschooling played a major role in the creation of Times Tales. It all started when I was teaching my boys their multiplication tables. One day they would remember, then the next day I would just get a blank stare during our flashcard drills. As most parents know, this can be very frustrating. As a result, I was motivated to think of a way they would remember their upper math facts, just so we could move on. I remembered using mnemonic memory aids in school to memorize for tests, and I decided to apply the same technique to the flashcards. The boys helped come up with some of the stories and thought it was great fun. Best of all, they finally mastered their multiplication tables!
Have you personally seen how Times Tales can make a difference with children struggling to learn their multiplication tables?
Marillee: After we developed our first prototype of Times Tales we tested it on my oldest daughter and some children in our homeschool group. We knew the program worked on Jennie’s boys, but we were not sure if it would be good fit for the average student learning their upper multiplication tables. Jennie and I were both amazed at how fast and effective the program was in teaching the times tables to the different types of learners we tested it on.
Over the years we have heard countless reviews on how Times Tales has worked for their struggling student when all other programs failed or that they purchased Times Tales as a last resort and were amazed at how quickly their child picked up on the stories. Times Tales gives the student a memory peg so they have an anchor for their times tables. Times Tales works perfect for the struggling student that has trouble memorizing their upper times tables.
Why do you think kids engage so well with Times Tales?
Jennie: I am a true believer that children are more geared to right-brained, creative thinking and therefore any learning is much more effective when you involve visual and imaginational elements. With our program, children (as well as parents) are often surprised themselves at their ability to effectively memorize when prior methods did not work. Not only do kids get the satisfaction of mastering their math facts, but it is also a great example to them of how the brain can “switch gears” and produce a different result when the information is presented via a more visual method.
Times Tales combines math with stories that use numbers. Where did the idea come from?
Jennie: The basis of Times Tales is converting numbers into characters then giving each a specific story. Children can much easily recall any story or event than they can printed numbers on paper. Mnemonics basically works by providing a “memory peg” that in turn triggers the brain to recall an event. In the case of Times Tales, we create the “event” by imaginative characters that each have their own stories when they interact with one another. The characters are the multiplication problems and the answer is in the story.
When did you decide to bring the product to a wider audience?
Marillee: We started out selling our product initially in the homeschool market. As Times Tales continued to get rave reviews from homeschoolers around the country we decided the public, charter, and private schools would also benefit from Times Tales. We developed our Classroom Editions and were able to get into schools by word-of-mouth and advertising. We have a product that every child will eventually need so our potential market is very large.
What updates have you made to Times Tales over the years?
Jennie: Times Tales began with the first few copies produced in a local copy store. In the infancy of our business, we really had no idea about publishing or marketing, it was a learn-as-you-go experience for us both. My sister, Marillee, had to learn the publishing side, and I learned about graphics, animation and marketing.
Through the years, we have updated the original Times Tales print version several times which has also included our most popular version, the Times Tales DVD. When we started, we only thought our market was just mainly homeschoolers. However, through word-of-mouth and a great endorsement by Susan Barton ( recognized internationally as an expert in dyslexia) we began to get into the public and private schools. Our Times Tales Classroom Edition was developed by the help of 11 teachers that tried it out on their students and gave feedback how to convert to a larger classroom setting. Currently, we have a new Times Tales Workbook that is about to hit the market, as well as a Times Tales App through the Apple Store.
You and your sister started the business together in 2003. How do you work together to create and share products?
Marillee: We have been together all our lives and have learned how to work together. We try to use each other’s strength and appreciate our differences. We are so different that we make a great team. Usually Jennie is the one with the creative idea and I help develop it.
Do you have any advice for homeschoolers/parents with struggling kids?
Marillee: The homeschool market has grown so much in the past decade that there seems to be endless choices for homeschool curriculum and resources. The beauty of homeschooling is if one curriculum, program, or style of teaching does not work switch it up. Don’t wait until the beginning of the next school year, do it as soon as you can. Do what works for your family and the student. Try not to put your teaching in a box. Be creative and have fun with your children. There are so many ways to teach a concept or subject. Don’t get stuck with using one particular method or curriculum just because it worked for one of your children or that is the way you have always done it. This out-of-the-box approach is what helped create Times Tales.