Strategies for learning times tables

Jul 2012
Pupils should be able to recite their times tables up to 12 x 12 by the age of nine.

Under proposals for the new UK national curriculum, set to be implemented in 2020, pupils should be able to recite their times tables up to and including 12 x 12 by the age of nine.

An Ofsted report into productive methods in primary mathematics, using evidence from 20 schools, highlighted the importance of learning times tables.

"Understanding of place value, fluency in mental methods, and good recall of number facts such as multiplication tables and number bonds are considered by the schools to be essential precursors for learning traditional vertical algorithms (methods) for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division."

According to a study entitled Improving Basic Multiplication Fact Recall for Primary School Students by the University of Sydney, the following strategies show how to make children feel confident with maths and, in particular, with the process of learning their times tables:

Direct counting: Physical materials are used to model the problem and the objects are simply counted without any obvious reference to the multiplicative structure.

Rhythmic counting: Counting follows the structure of the problem (e.g., "1, 2; 3, 4; 5, 6" or "6; 5, 4; 3, 2.").Simultaneously with counting, a second count is kept of the total number of groups.

Skip counting: Counting is done in multiples (e.g., "2, 4, 6" or "6, 4, 2"), making it easier to keep count of the number of groups.

Additive calculation/ Repeated Addition: Counting is replaced by calculations (e.g., 2 + 2 = 4, 4 + 2 = 6).

Multiplicative calculation: Calculations take the form of known facts (e.g., "3 times 2 is 6" or derivatives from a known fact e.g., 3 x 2 = 2 x 2 + 2).

Commutative law: Changing the order of two numbers in a multiplication equation does not change the answer (e.g., 7 x 9 = 9 x 7).