This is something where I would really like to hear people’s opinions, both on the ‘little stuff’ and on the bigger picture.
Barring my most able pupils classes (i.e. about 1/2 – 1/3 of the pupils in top sets), a huge barrier for my pupils is that they haven’t ‘secured’ their times tables. This makes everything laborious and error-strewn, making maths even more slow and frustrating for them, and increasing the likelihood that their answers will be ‘wrong’.
Almost everyone I teach would have at least the following response to the question “What’s 6 x 7?”
1.Decide on 6s or 7s
2. Start counting up in 6s (hopefully)
3. Keep track on fingers to know when you’ve reached 7
4. Give answer/return to the reason why you need ‘6 7s’
The majority* would expand steps 2 and 3 to be ‘start at 6, count on for six fingers and say ‘2’, count on for six fingers, say ‘3’, count on for six fingers, say ‘4’, etc’. It takes ages, and is prone to a lot of mistakes as, because they are using their fingers to count from 1 to 6, they can’t use them to keep track of how many 6s they have used.
S0, my question is: should we put a lot more emphasis on memorising ‘times tables’ in primary school? I can think of many arguments for and against doing so, and some tangential points, but would like to throw it open as I haven’t made up my mind.
Supplementary question: given that the majority don’t know their tables, should I let them have their own multiplication grids to stick in their books/stuck to the desks, which they can refer to? This would almost eliminate what practice they do get, but they would move much more quickly, and with more accuracy, through everything else (e.g. algebra, fractions, volume, etc…).
This is a neat alternative, and somewhat in keeping with the news:
* This includes Y11 students working towards Cs in their GCSEs.