This is a question I am regularly asked by parents of primary school aged students. If their child is in Year 3 or above, my answer is, “Yes”.
The ability to memorise and automatically recall the 12 X tables is a skill that can be learned by most students with practise, and doing so gives them a distinct advantage in Mathematics. Consider the examples below. This student was able to solve both algorithms quickly and accurately, because they knew their X tables.
To complete the multiplication algorithm above, students need to accurately solve the following X tables equations; 6 X 7, 9 X 7, 5 X 7, 1 X 7. To complete the division algorithm above, students need to work out how many 8s are in 10, then how many 8s are in 28, then how many 8s are in 41 and then how many 8s are in 16, while they are manipulating remainders and applying their knowledge of place value to each step of the process. Students who have the ability to automatically recall the 12 X tables, are able to focus solely on the concepts of place value, and the process of regrouping that is involved in dividing and multiplying larger numbers.
If students need to work out the answer to every multiplication and division equation that is involved in solving algorithms similar to those above, the number of steps involved in completing the algorithm increases significantly, which creates a higher margin for error. Not knowing their X tables makes it much more difficult for students to solve such algorithms accurately, and it takes them much longer too.
The ability to recall the 12 X tables automatically helps students succeed in Mathematics because it frees up their cognitive space, enabling them to focus on the more complex mathematical concepts involved in number, algebra and problem solving. Students who know their tables don’t need to slow down or ‘fill up’ their working memory by stopping to solve every ‘basic’ multiplication or division equation that they encounter during a typical mathematics lesson.
During my many years as a classroom teacher, and now as a tutor, I have noticed that students who don’t know their X tables can really struggle to solve the most basic algorithms accurately, which can diminish their self confidence and enjoyment of mathematics.
I have also noticed that once these students dedicate time to regularly practising their X tables, their ability to recall them automatically improves. This leads to them experiencing more success in Mathematics, which increases their self confidence and enjoyment of Mathematics, which leads to higher grades in Mathematics at school.
It is vitally important for students to develop their ability to automatically recall the 12 X tables.
Whilst rote learning is considered by many to be an out-dated and ineffective way to learn, it can be argued that rote learning, which describes a process involving an integration of repetition, drilling, memorisation and practice at regular intervals, is a useful strategy for learning facts. For many students, rote learning is an effective technique for memorising facts, including the 12 X tables.
At Optimise Learning we are so passionate about assisting students to learn their X tables that we now offer FREE online ‘Times Tables Tune Up’ workshops for students from Year 2 to Year 6, each Saturday during the school term.
During our workshops we focus on learning a single X table at a time. For example, one week we will focus on learning the 6 X tables, and another week we will focus on learning the 8 X tables, and so on. Our X tables workshops follow the same format. First we do some skip counting to warm up, then we practise solving times table equations and learning the ‘fact family’ for each X table equation. Students also complete a task sheet that involves applying the times table knowledge that was practised during the workshop, to a variety of simple problems.
We focus on helping students to have fun, feel successful and enjoy learning the X tables during our workshops. If your child is in Year 2 or above, and doesn’t know their X tables, they could benefit from participating in our ‘Times Tables Tune Up’ workshops. We would LOVE the opportunity to assist them!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Optimise Learning Co-Founder