ATHENA - Teaching higher multiplication tables to young students can be a difficult task for teachers, and Jennie Von Eggers was fed up with traditional methods that just weren't working.

So Von Eggers and her two partners launched a business selling a learning system that's designed to help students learn the multiplication of the numbers 6 through 9, the most difficult of the numbers to learn, she said. It's called "Times Tales" and it has managed to multiply its profits for the partners, who have no prior teaching or business experience.

Times Tales has seen sales of more than 1,000 units in less than a year, with the bulk of its orders coming in just the past few months.

"We knew it worked," Von Eggers said. "We really did not think we would get the response we did."

Von Eggers, along with her sister Marillee Flanagan and longtime friend Dena Wood, home school their children (13 of them between the three) and were running into mathematical roadblocks whenever they tried to teach the higher multiplication tables.

Von Eggers had the idea to make characters and stories out of the numbers, getting kids to be interested in more then just memorizing numbers.

She shared her idea with Flanagan and the idea began to grow.

"So many programs have failed where this succeeds because it's fun," Flanagan said. "We just didn't anticipate this."

Wood also became excited about the program and in less than a year the three friends, under the banner of their company Sugar Memory Systems, have sold products in Singapore and New Zealand, all without spending a dollar on advertising.

Everything for the program is sold through an Internet site mail order system. The women gather in Athena to put together the packets of materials .

Wood and Flanagan have business degrees, but none of them had tried any sort of independent venture.

"We went to school for business, had a bunch of kids, and now 20 years later we're back," Wood said.

They have redesigned their initial package for used in a classroom setting and have received favorable reviews from teachers.

"I like it because they can carry it on through fourth and fifth grades and it goes on and on," said Jennifer Yusko, a third-grade teacher from New York, who tried the program with her students.

At the third-grade level, students have a hard time grasping the concepts of multiplying, Yusko said, and this program helps them put numbers in a context they can remember.

"They're visual learners," Yusko said.

For now, the three stay-at-home moms are trying to keep up with the orders, up to 100 a month. They also are looking into translating the system into Spanish.

The three of them say they're shocked by the response they have received.

"At this point things have just fallen into place," Wood said.

Teachers and parents interested in Times Tales can find more information at www.timestales.com.

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