Having tutored struggling high school students for a long time now, I have noticed a disturbing pattern. Most of them don't know their time tables or other basic number facts. The way in which their results are assessed and reported does not reveal this to parents. I have had parents come to me with school reports pointing out that their children cannot understand trigonometry or what ever specific topic they have been tested on. Unfortunately, their children believe this too and begin to think they are stupid and unable to get good marks. However, I quickly discover that their mistakes and slowness in completing questions are the consequence of basic arithmetic errors. They do not know their times tables. Many also add and subtract incorrectly. Reliance on a calculator does not overcome these limitations because these children cannot recognise when an answer is clearly wrong and double check it. There are also typically non-calculator tests that students must complete in high school. The fundamentals can't be bypassed without serious consequences.
Rote learning has been devalued in modern society and many students have no concept of the value of memorisation. Yet the old fashioned ways of learning times tables worked. I still remember my times tables after all these years. I remember rhythmically repeating the times tables with the rest of the class in a sing-song voice. It was boring and seemed rather pointless at the time but the method worked and I still remember them.
The importance of times tables may not be too apparent in primary (elementary) school but they are the basics upon which a good mathematics experience in high school is based. If kids can learn the lyrics of countless songs, they can learn their times tables. Parents and teachers need to emphasise the importance of the basics to academic success and make learning them a priority.
As well as daily repetition and practice of times tables here are some tips to help work out answers quickly (but not as quickly as knowing them by rote):
The 9 Times Table up to Ten
1. Hold your hands in front of you with your fingers spread out.
2. For 9 X 3 bend your third finger down. (9 X 4 would be the fourth finger etc.)
3. You have 2 fingers in front of the bent finger and 7 after the bent finger.
4. Thus the answer must be 27.
Another 9 Times Table Method
The 4 Times Table
The Eleven Times Table
These tricks can be helpful in quickly finding answers to the above multiplication tables but they are not a substitute for learning the times tables.
Our primary contributor is Elissa, who is a qualified high school teacher and Irlen Screener.