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Times Tables by heart?

(135 Posts)
trisher Mon 04-Jan-16 09:08:08

The government thinks that all children should leave primary school knowing all their times tables by heart. I did know them at that age but didn't understand what I was chanting (I thought it was a bit like a magic spell-I read a lot of fairy tales!!!), so understandably I think this is a waste of time and I am hopeless at maths. I didn't really understand what the tables meant until I did maths at Teacher training college. Children need to understand what they are learning not just repeat it by rote.

Teetime Mon 04-Jan-16 09:19:18

Well I find my learning of the multiplication tables has set in in very good stead. I'm not good at Maths but I go back time and time again to the basis of my understanding of numeracy. Thank heavens for Excel though.

Indinana Mon 04-Jan-16 09:19:30

Yes I learnt them by rote as well - we all did in those days I think. But I did understand them too, I knew what they could be used for and throughout my school days they were put to use. In fact throughout my life I have always been grateful that I can instantly recall the calculations - younger colleagues have frequently been impressed that I (and others of my generation) have been able to come up with the answer while they're still trying to work it out. So yes, I think it's a great idea to reintroduce this method.

cornergran Mon 04-Jan-16 09:49:58

Agree with indinana. Maths was never my favourite but the ability to recall via the times table was and is incredibly helpful. As long as the 'why' of it is also taught.

annodomini Mon 04-Jan-16 09:51:46

I can still say all the tables I learnt 70 years ago and many poems that I also learnt to say by heart in my schooldays. I know which I think have been more life-enhancing for me and wish that children had to learn poems nowadays.

Gagagran Mon 04-Jan-16 09:52:38

We used to chant them every morning in class and it was a thrill when we moved onto the bigger numbers (9x eg). I have found them to be embedded in my brain and use them still. I can't see why anyone should object to children having such a useful tool.

trisher Mon 04-Jan-16 09:57:54

I fear that a return to rote learning will mean children will not understand, and although being able to recall the tables may help with calculations, in the long term it will lead to less children being able to move into higher levels of maths.

glammanana Mon 04-Jan-16 10:00:43

I totally agree with that Gagagran I just had problems with 7x for a short while but I can calculate most things quicker than a till can even these days we had our lessons for the first lesson every morning followed by spelling tests, every Friday we had a class test and we where positioned every Monday morning within the class based on results it certainly made you try harder to get to the top of the class.

kittylester Mon 04-Jan-16 10:02:27

Surely have and understanding of where the figures come from doesn't preclude the learning by rote or vice versa! Instant recall has always stood me in good stead but I know why 11 x 11 is 121 if I need to!

Indinana Mon 04-Jan-16 10:02:54

I didn't really understand what the tables meant until I did maths at Teacher training college

I have to say I am astonished by this shock. I simply can't think how you could reach the age of, what, 18? without actually understanding what "seven sixes are forty-two" meant confused

trisher Mon 04-Jan-16 10:08:56

I never thought of numbers as concrete things simply as symbols like letters-as I said I read a lot. Hence when it came to doing other things like minus numbers I was a bit lost. Managed to scrape an "O" level but dropped any maths at 16.

mcem Mon 04-Jan-16 10:12:59

Don't agree trisher. If taught properly the rote learning can work perfectly along with (not instead of) understanding. Teaching the basic how and why of multiplication is not always straightforward but I found that most of my pupils loved the shortcuts provided by tables. They enjoyed all the games that helped with learning tables - buzz, whizz, bingo and various inventions and variations on themes.
It's not all aboout mindless chanting.
It's nearly 10 years since I retired but I taught tables to 9-11 yr-olds throughout my career - even during the years when it was 'unfashionable' to do so.
I plan to play the same games with my DGCs as soon as they're ready.

trisher Mon 04-Jan-16 10:16:16

I'm not saying don't teach them-just that being able to chant them is no guarantee that you understand what you are chanting and if you concentrate on rote learning you are in danger of losing understanding. They should be taught of course but as a tool not an end in itself.

henetha Mon 04-Jan-16 10:16:33

Learning my times tables is one of the few things that has 'stuck', and is still useful sometimes. I'm all in favour of children having to learn them today. Sometimes the old methods are best. There seems to be an awful lot of weird things being taught at school these days.

BlackeyedSusan Mon 04-Jan-16 10:17:33

ds used to be able to tell you some sums with the correct answer, but he had no idea how to combine two groups of objects and find how many.

rote learning is fine if they understand the principle behind it. (though your maths may be better if you can not remember them and have to work them out quickly as you will develop strategies)

some children will never be able to recall facts quickly however good they are at maths as they have a slow processing speed or working memory.

trisher Mon 04-Jan-16 10:23:10

And strangely enough the people I know who are very good at maths and work at higher levels are fairly useless at actual calculations.

rosequartz Mon 04-Jan-16 10:28:26

I think it is a good idea, also doing short sessions of mental arithmetic. Trains the brain to retain facts, as does learning poetry, short tracts of Shakespeare, Latin etc.
Only one of my DC learnt their times tables by rote at primary school, and despite our best efforts at home the others did not.
Guess which one has a career which involves the daily use of mathematics, could be due to that sexist thing that he is the only boy, but could it be due to having early numerical training?

I don't know how it can not help, can' t everyone 'see' the mounting numbers in a table in their mind's eye? Perhaps not.

TerriBull Mon 04-Jan-16 10:36:13

Being able to apply times tables to everyday life as an adult has been invaluable and if I had a pound for every time I would have used them, I would be a millionaire now without a doubt. I was stunned quite a number of years ago now, when I bought five of something in a shop and the assistant then wrote the amount out for each item five times and added them up, I had to bite my tongue because I really wanted to shout out "did you never learn your times tables?"

I am not good at maths but I don't think learning tables by rote is a waste of time I always saw the point of them.

Learning catechism, at my Catholic junior school, now that was a complete waste of time!

TerriBull Mon 04-Jan-16 10:38:35

I meant to say learning catechism by rote. Rote is good if what the pupil is learning will be of some use.

Penstemmon Mon 04-Jan-16 10:40:20

From Mike Rosen

Some can learn tables.
Some can't.
Some can use the tables and understand maths.
Some can't.
You can know the tables and be good at maths.
You can know the tables and be no good at maths.
You can not know the tables and be no good at maths.
You can be no good at tables and be good at maths.
Knowing the tables is not the be all and end all of maths.
Maths is more than tables.
If you have a high stakes test on tables, you end up saying to children that maths is knowing the tables.
You end up saying to them that the most important thing about maths is knowing the tables.
Giving them a high stakes test which will judge the child, the teacher and the school, will add one more stress to education.

MiniMouse Mon 04-Jan-16 10:42:30

Surely it doesn't matter whether young children fully understand what they're learning by rote, that will come later. The point is, that by learning their tables, they will have instant recall to them later.

When I taught them, I made them into games as well, so lessening the 'ordeal' effect!

I remember some of the parents telling me that they used to chant timestables with their children on their way to school!

Tables may not be the be-all and end-all, but they're useful in everyday life, not just for mathematicians.

Anniebach Mon 04-Jan-16 10:44:59

Why would teachers speak out against it.

I was great at learning the tables but failed O'level maths

Penstemmon Mon 04-Jan-16 10:47:50

Please do not be taken in!!

This is another strategy by a government to suggest there is a serious problem by making an announcement declaring they are going to 'test' or 'inspect' something. They then collect data and announce that 'they' have improved whatever it is they are testing/inspecting!

The KS2 (11yr old) maths tests are challenging and children are already taught and tested on maths /times tables very well by schools/teachers.

I was at school in the 50's but I still struggle to recall my tables. We had weekly table tests and I continued to fail at them.

You do not fatten the pig by weighing it!

rosesarered Mon 04-Jan-16 10:49:44

Knowing the times tables is a useful tool for life, even if you never learn any higher maths.However, as trisher says, children have to understand what they are actually saying. Because numbers are not solid objects, they can be confusing to children, that's why, when solving 'problems' it was always good to use or pretend to use actual oranges ie. if Jack has 3 oranges and Jill has four oranges and John takes one orange from Jack and two oranges from Jill how many oranges will Jack and Jill now have?Suddenly, numbers make sense.

Anya Mon 04-Jan-16 10:50:58

Children need to have a good recall of ALL number bonds including multiplication.