I ate and I ate …

I ate and I ate until I was sick on the floor, eight times eight is sixty fourThe Government has announced that it expects all children to be able to recall their times tables – up to and including 12 x 12 – by the time they reach age 11 and leave Primary School.

Quite right too. They should know them before age 11, but it makes sense to test them at this point as part of the Key Stage 2 tests.

Last term I was shocked when one of my year nines said to me:

… but sir, 5 x 10 can’t be fifty. 10 x 5 is fifty.


This year, I teach the “bottom set” of year nine and (for some of them) their inability to instantly recall basic numerical facts – after nine years of compulsory education – frightens me. There is no doubt in my mind that a lack of fluency in their times tables holds them back.

Of course, knowing your times tables is not a panacea for all innumeracy but it is a vital part of the solution.  I would also like to see pupils – at home and at school – “muck about” more with numbers; play games – cards, monopoly, darts; go shopping with hard cash in their pocket etc., all of which will help to develop basic numeracy skills and put numbers in context.

There has been much in the media and press about this story today, much of it positive and supportive. The best quote I have seen was on Twitter from @MarkMcCourt of eMathsUk:

tables quote


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One Comment

  1. Alan
    Posted 10/02/2016 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Not quite as horrific as your example, but my class were all 14-15 years old.
    I asked them what 1 1/2 times 4 is. After a geological age or two, they said 8.
    I was, as they say, nonplussed (and even non-multiplied), so I asked them what 2 times 4 is. They took a minute or so to say 8.
    I asked them if they would like to think again about their first answer. None of them saw a problem with it.
    I don’t know if the root problem is that they can’t count (i.e. add up, never mind times tables), or that they cannot grasp that something which has happened in the past (e.g. their first answer) has anything to do with the present.

    None of them have ever suggested using the internet/i phone or looking things up. They just wait for the dominant person to say something, then repeat whatever they said. No matter how ridiculous. It takes less effort than thinking. Now I never allow that to happen.

    If the general public ever find out how many teachers are so implacably opposed to “the three Rs”, the profession is going to be in a lot of trouble.

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