Sunday, 1 February 2015

Times Tables

I have a vision of a school classroom, full of children, standing (why they're standing I don't know, but I imagine them standing), chanting in unison "TWO TWO'S ARE FOUR. THREE TWO'S ARE SIX. FOUR TWO'S ARE EIGHT..." and so on.

The UK Education Secretary has announced plans to ensure that all children are well grounded in the basics of English and Mathematics.  This all sounds good, I fully agree that by the time you leave school you ought to know how to do sums and read and write, and do all of these things correctly, because if you're going to apply for a job (or college, or university) you're going to be expected to have all these things sorted.

There was just one point of the news item that I read that sounds a bit questionable - I'm led to understand that the Education Secretary said "We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart"

I just wonder a little about how relevant times tables are, and whether they're actually the best way to educate kids about mathematics.  I was taught at home and whilst I certainly remember reading the times tables, I was always more comfortable working the sums out rather than having the sums drilled into me.

Before I wrote this, I thought to myself "What's 12 times 12?" - do I know it off my heart?  No.  But it isn't too tricky to work out - 12 times 10 is 120, plus 12, and plus another 12 - 144.

I think I'd be slightly reluctant to rely on my memory to spit out answers, certainly to the times tables that I'm less comfortable with - the sevens times table is probably the worst for me because to me there isn't an easily identifiable pattern to the numbers, so I have to work it out.  Most of the others I can either remember, for one reason or another, or I have little tricks to do the sums quickly.

Do you know your times tables?  Are there ones that you're stronger with than others?  Do you think it's better to know information by rote or to help equip children with the skills to solve problems?

As an aside, thanks to all that made contact regarding my proposed solo tabletop gaming series - I'm planning to do a pilot episode in the next week or two, and if it gets a good reception I'll look to put together a series.  Do feel free to comment with suggestions as to what game I should feature in the pilot!


  1. My wife and both sons are very good at math, and I am numerically impaired. So, I feel math is over rated, people who are good at math are dull, and uninspiring. Do you think Coleridge was worried about geometric progressions, Steinbeck probably never figured the circumference of a circle. Math, who needs it? That's my motto.

    1. I think a lot of the stuff you get taught in maths isn't necessary - I did my GCSE in Maths (a sort of entry-level Maths qualification) and it seemed to me that they packed in all kinds of stuff - like the circumference of a circle - which isn't necessary. If you have a job where you need to work out the circumference of circles, you'll remember the formula because you use it all the time, and you'll use a calculator anyway because I wouldn't want to rely on figures that someone has worked out by hand. I don't need to work out circumferences, and so I don't remember how to do it. My life isn't blighted because of it.

  2. I love English as much as I hate Math. :P
    I tried. I really did. But I somehow go blank when I see numbers on the board.


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