Why should my child learn their times tables?

times tables help with 11 plus

If you are a similar age to me you will no doubt remember having to learn your times tables at school and those inevitable tables tests to see if the learning had gone in. Since then learning times tables seems to have gone in and out of fashion several times. With the advent of calculators it seemed that mental arithmetic was no longer needed, but I remember looking round a local secondary school in 2009 and being told that one of the first things the new year 7 students (that's "1st years" if you're my age) were taught was their times tables as this formed a foundation for the rest of what they would be learning, and without a thorough knowledge of times tables they would struggle with maths.

In my work as an eleven plus tutor I always ensure that the children I work with know their times tables up to 12 x 12. Knowing times tables helps them in a number of areas of maths in which they need to be competent. These include: multiplication, division, factors, ratios, mean, median and mode, perimeter, area, square numbers and square roots. Some children are naturally bad at arithmetic, so learning their times tables thoroughly will help compensate for this, others are naturally good at arithmetic and NOT learning their timetables will let them down.

Working with children from a wide range of primary schools I find that the attitude of schools to learning times tables varies considerably, despite the national curriculum which is supposed to ensure that all children learn what the government of the day thinks they should. One of my tutees tells me that "my teacher doesn't think there is any point in learning the 11 and 12 times tables" and I can see their point as long division, for example, only requires a knowledge of the tables up to x9 (unless of course you are dividing by 11 or 12).

At the beginning of this year, Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announced that there will be new compulsory times tables test (up to 12 x 12) for all children in Year 6 (that's 4th year juniors to you and me!). The test will be taken in the summer term and will be completed onscreen, the children will have to complete the tests in a set amount of time and the results will be available instantly (rather like on my website), this will be the first time that the Department for Education (DfE) has used computerised tests in primary schools. Initially the tests will be piloted with 3000 children across 80 primary schools in 2016, before being introduced to all primary schools in England in 2017. To get an idea of how the tables tests will work see the times tables tests on the Roots 2 Success website.