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Times Tables

I would say without any shadow of a doubt it is a good knowledge of times tables if I were to be asked the most important skill associated with passing external examinations at age 16 or thereabouts. Throughout the 3 decades of my teaching career, I actually have encounter numerous students (in schools so that as private students) who have no idea their times tables at age 16 well enough to be able to calculate things such as a fifth of 45 or even the total period of 8 ropes, each 4.5 metres long.

Learning times tables

The points I make have universal relevance across the whole world, even though i write as a teacher in the UK, so my examples relate specifically to this country. There exists a system of examinations now in which there is nearly always a calculator examination paper along with a non-calculator paper at every level from age twelve. So a good knowledge of tables is definitely needed in the non-calculator paper, but is of great benefit in the calculator paper too, as knowing that seven eights is fifty six is much less time consuming than having to press the appropriate buttons on a calculator. Inside an examination, seconds count.

A moment's thought will disclose lots of the instances where times tables are utilized. Every money problem in any currency involving a multiplication ($12.67 x 9) or division (Find the average of $34.50, $33.60, $59.90 and $46.80) uses times tables. Percentages (Find 17% of 12.50), fractions (cancel 45/75 to the lowest terms), geometry (find the internal angles of the regular octagon), algebra (expand 7a(3a 6b 9c)) and speed problems (get the average speed of a car that travelled 960 kilometres in 8 hours) are just a few of the many more examples available on examination papers.

Just one way of practising times tables is always to complete random tables squares, i.e. tables squares in which the numbers 1-10 are distributed randomly across the top of the table and down the left hand side. I am just currently employing a selection of 9 and 8 year olds inside a local primary school, a number of whom can already complete this kind of table correctly within a few minutes. At sixteen years of age, the great greater part of students should be able to easily beat that point - and get every one of them correct, needless to say.

The question of whether times tables from 1 to 10 is enough often crops up. Should youngsters be aware of eleven and twelve times tables? If you live in a mostly metric country, 1 to 10 is sufficient for all examination work and I would then concentrate on learning the square numbers up to 20 x 20 as these are very useful for Pythagoras' Theorem. If you live in a country still using inches and feet for everyday measurements, then you will probably need to learn tables up to 12 x 12.

So, if you or your youngsters are taking external examination some time soon, the one thing you could do to improve your performance more than anything else is to get those tables truly and well in the old brain box!

Alan Young has become a teacher of mathematics for thirty years within both high and primary schools. he has worked within the private and also the public sector and coached a lot of private students in this particular subject.

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