Mrs Beasley's Blog

Learning from a tutor's perspective

The great Times Tables debate

The great Times Tables debate rumbles on! Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has decreed that, from now on, children must know their tables up to and including the 12 times. Shock horror amongst all the trendy educationalists!

“Thank God” say the traditionalists. At long last, common sense is returning to the classroom.

I count myself fervently in the second group. I have seen too many examples of the ‘alternative methods’ of learning tables in my own tutoring. I have students, some as old as fifteen and doing GCSE maths, who don’t know their tables, and who are still counting on their fingers! (I kid you not!) These students are at a great disadvantage when it comes to exams, because not knowing your tables holds you back in so many ways. Long division and long multiplication becomes very difficult, as does simplifying fractions, recognising equivalent fractions and changing denominators, to name just a few, all become much more difficult if you don’t have instant recall of your tables.

Not only that, but not knowing your tables slows you down considerably in exams or tests. You lose so much time trying to work out the answer, which is not good when you only have so much time in which to complete the whole test or exam.

So many children have been let down in the past by these ‘new’ methods, which are always hailed as being so much better than the ‘old’ ones.

“It is important that children understand what they are doing,” thunders a reader’s letter in a national newspaper today (which is what inspired me to write this rant!) “Learning by rote is not the way to develop this understanding!”

Nobody is suggesting that all maths is taught by rote, but knowing one’s tables off by heart is so important, and can be taught from a very early age, so why is there so much angst about it? I sell a Times Tables CDs in my on-line shop, and all the times tables are set to music in such an engaging way that you can’t help singing along. Why can’t all Key Stage 1 children do something like that? They could sing their tables for just 10 minutes a day, and I guarantee that they would very quickly learn them. Just think how quickly they pick up the words of songs when they hear them on the TV or radio. It’s a simple and effective method – sing along, have fun and LEARN!! Then you won’t end up at the age of 16, struggling to cancel down fractions!

So, I don’t care what others may say. I repeat – ‘Thank goodness for Michael Gove’!

Category: Education