Do you? Come on now. Come clean? I will say two things before we go any further. 1. I taught for some years, finally becoming Head of a Department in an Inner City Comprehensive School. 2Now I am retired and have been for many years so times and teaching methods will have changed since my day. But let me just say that over the years I held down a good and often difficult job so I do know what I am talking about. Of all the maths I have ever thought about the one thing I have found absolutely necessary and use every single day still is my Times Tables and I was taught them in JUNIOR SCHOOL and woe betide anyone in the class who didn't learn them and who couldn't recite them up to 13 times at the drop of a hat.

Now Rishi is saying every child must be taught maths whether he/she wants until they leave school at 18. So let me say this.

Many of the children I taught came into secondary education with a reading age well under what it should be and unable to do anything more than arithmetic and that at a poor level. I know in the thirty years since I retired things might have changed but I doubt it. The same goes for the way teachers are trained.

But the older children get the less they want to learn unless the stuff they are fed is interesting and relevant - they need to ask 'Why are you teaching me this - is it relevant to my future - do I need to know this.' (I am speaking here of children who are not University level). They don't wish to read a book or sit doing maths unless they can see a purpose in doing so.

I know dozens of incidents where I have gone into supermarkets and queued at the check-outs and there - on the till is a girl I have taught until a year ago - a girl who could barely read and write and who had poor maths skills when she left but is now in a job she obviously enjoys - rattling through the till with a skill I wouldn't have believed possible, smiling, being polite and businesslike to each customer. And I realise that RELEVANCY is the word that should be uppermost in teacher training. And that is not something which applies to skills like algebra and many other maths skills, any more than reading eg. 'The Mill on the Floss' or 'Moby Dick' if your working life is looming large on the horizon. Horses for Courses Rishi unless times have changed greatly since my day.

- Seeing those girls on the till at Tesco or seeing a lad bring my car back after it being serviced at the garage where he is working gives any teacher who has taught him/her a great sense of pride and I wonder if they can still say their times tables - alright they can have their mobile or whatever in their pocket but there is no greater skill in my book at 90 than to be able to remember while doing the Mind Games in The Times that 8 x 7 is 56!

## 47 comments:

It is all pie in the sky anyway because there has been a shortage of maths teachers in Britain for decades so quite frankly it isn't going to happen.

Yes, I remember my tables, though I'm sure my arithmetic was given an even greater boost by playing darts! Interesting to note how many market traders, bookmakers and indeed darts-players have counting skills which many politicians lack.

I'm not a teacher, but I did, for a few years, help to teach adult literacy at night school, and their motivation was always based on relevancy. My favourite students were two young farm workers, who had just bunked off school as much as possible. The boys came in one day and told me that they had been doing some writing. I was sceptical. They laughed. It was mid February, and they were so proud that they had managed to write Valentine's Day cards for their girlfriends! So yes, relevancy!

Maths teachers have to be talented enough to help kids appreciate maths for maths' sake and get over what appears to be useless abstraction. I got zero points in maths O Level, but I think I could have been quite good at it.

Oh, and by the way, I was not allowed to take Art O Level unless I took Maths, to 'balance it out'. I think Rishi Sunak has a similar silly idea.

Yes, I know my times tables and yes I'm pleased that I learned them by rote. But I tend to agree that we need greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy in young adults - whether that means teaching maths (in some practical form) up to 18 is a different matter.

At primary school in the early 60's and in a class of 4 different age groups we did times tables every day- everyone from 8 to 11 altogether off by heart. Never forgotten although we didn't do 13 - which is annoying and I could do with 75 times table while watching Countdown!

It would have made more sense to today's generation if Sunak had said that Home Economics was to be made compulsory which would have killed two birds with one stone, how to prepare a meal with a bit of mathematics thrown in.

I remember when all of the exercise books had the times tables and weights and measures on the back, this was a great help. We used to chant the tables each day, that was an excellent way to learn them.

So a girl or boy who is no good at math's will not get a chance to be a nurse for example because you now need to go to Uni for this job even though some of them would make wonderful nurses if allowed to learn on the job as it used to be.

Sensible people know what the problems are but money always comes in the way of common sense these days.

Briony

x

This policy will cause much division and the problems will multiply.

And yes, I agree with your point about relevance. I was teaching algebra to a lower than average class. Usual sort of problem 4a + 3b + 2c =? Sort of thing. Steven, least able lad was struggling. But I knew he helped his greengrocer dad every weekend on the market. "if a is apples, b is bananas and c is cabbages, what must I pay?" I said. Steven did it instantly. Everyone cheered. "Algebra is something Steven can do because it's very relevant for his family - he just didn't know how good he was at maths till today" I swear that lad left the lesson 2" taller, and the others picked up the skills too. One of my best ever lessons. But so many young teachers today are not trained adequately, sadly.

I agree with Rachel, although I loved Maths at school, children these days have an academic education but are not given life skills. I can hear people saying but they learn that at home. But there not mum can’t cook so neither can the children, or sew or put up a shelf. This is why my daughter used to take up trousers and skirts in her lunch hour as her friends had no idea how to. As I said to a nine year old boy many years ago, who I was teaching to sew on a button, your mum will not go into the army with you so you will need to do it yourself.

I'm 66 (in the U.S.) and we memorized times tables when we were 8 years old (third grade). I'm also a hobby weaver (of cloth) so do a fair amount of calculating. I never considered myself a math person, but I am very good at arithmetic. I also have a good sense of numbers so when I'm making a purchase in a store, I have a sense of whether the total I'm told is possible. This is a critical skill that I think is lost when people don't work with numbers in practical ways. Young people working as cashiers rely completely on the machine to calculate for them. When I cashiered (in the last century) you punched in the total of a restaurant bill, then were on your own to make change. Do that for a day and you get pretty good at it. (Or not - and move on to some other work). When paying a bill I will often give change that makes it easier for the cashier, or at least that used to be the case, but eventually realized I was just flummoxing them by handing over $20.18 for a $16.68 bill. (Works with U.S. denominations). I still do it and when met with that look of disbelief tell them to just try the numbers - and they'll return $3.50. Just as a farmer can tell you distances out in the open, we get good at what we've learned to see and practice. In a perfect world, all students would be exposed to measuring and calculation while baking, sewing, doing carpentry, planting a field, etc.

Love your blog and your thoughts on everything, so interesting.

I'am 55 years old Pat and still know my times tables... asked hubby... he says he's a little wishy washy on them... lol Alot of my adult life was as a cashier or working with money..One of my first jobs was at a clothing store that had a register that did not tell you the change amount to give back.. yes i'm that old..lol So i had to figure that out.. Great experience for me.. I don't know how kids are being taught now. I may find out as i have two young grandchildren.. Hugs! debs

I love Angela's comment, 'This policy will cause much division and the problems will multiply.' I giggled for ages at that!

I knew my times tables up to 13 by the age of seven. School taught up to 12x and my much loved Grandfather taught me 13x.

Our Grandson is six years old, and the youngest child in his year group (late August birthday). He already knows his 2,3,4,5,6,8,10,11, and 12 times tables, and is starting on his 7x and 9x this week. We bring arithmetic into almost everything we do with him, because as far as I'm concerned it's a life skill!

As an aside to Jenn.......Our Grandson asked for a 'ticking watch' at Christmas 2021, and he now can tell the time perfectly on a timepiece with hands, the only child in his year group able to do so!

I suppose we, and he, are lucky that as we're retired and collect him from school at least three times a week, we have the opportunity to teach him things! We also love being allowed to have so much influence in bringing up another 'small person'! X

I imagine that most youngsters these days would laugh at the thought of wasting time learning maths, why do they need to, from the age of 6 they have the answer to all their problems in their pocket. on a Smart Phone.

Better as Rachel suggests, that they learn some basic life skills, like how to communicate with each without a phone, how to boil an egg, etc. etc..

I am a retired English teacher…high school and university. High school requires at least four higher level maths…four sciences…four social studies and four English. I did not agree with this , but teachers do t make the rules. They do have a school in the county where kids can go the first part of the day for hands on classes. They love those. The more education the better…formal and informal. I am still learning. I quit taking formal classes in my 60’s. I still teach grands and others online in my 70’s. I enjoy your blog. It is alway positive and realistic. Some bloggers are so negative…

Multiplication tables check is now compulsory in primary schools since academic year 2021/22, before it was optional. Children are again learning tables in primary school.

I learned my multiplication tables by rote. I hated math with a passion, but we learned those facts. Here is the thing. Fast forward to 40 years later. William was struggling in math. I realized it was because he did not know his math facts. I questioned the teacher about this, and the reasoning was, if they were presented with daily multiplication sheets, they'd absorm the facts with no real effort. Because William did not like math, he was not absorbing the facts, and he had to figure out the problem from scratch every time he saw it, which made getting those work sheets done a very lengthy process. There were tears. I knew that division was going to be next.

We began learning the tables by rote. It took us the entire summer, but he learned them by heart, and although he hated it, it made his life so much easier. He admits that now. A big break through was realizing (on his own) that (for example) 6 x 5 was the same thing as 5 x 6, and since he'd already learned the five times table, he knew those annswers.

I don't understand some of the teaching methods. There are things that are better learned by rote. I don't know anyone who didn't learn the ABCs by rote, and I know no one who can't recite them to this very day. Even alzheimer patients can join in to sing them.

I learned my multiplication tables by memory when in elementary school and it is the one part of my math education I still recall at the drop of a hat at age 72. Math was always hard for me but the pride I felt in learning the tables made me feel so accomplished.

Well silly story from our town chat. A 16 year old wrote that she did not see why she had to do another four years of maths! Most of us that are old enough have learnt our time tables, also learning poetry by heart and that useless list of historical facts.

Computer skills require maths and abstract thought as well, but these are skills also probably required in most things practical as well, whether it is farming, serving in a shop or working on the factory floor. Respect perhaps should be given to all forms of education and perhaps an understanding that the 'old ways' are not necessarily the best in today's modern society.

I am 75 and we learnt the times tables by rote. Every day in Primary School we would chant our way through them and then the teacher would ask each of us a different times question. Why do the'experts' have to interfere with such basic skills as this which obviously worked well for years.

In Senior School we had a teacher who would tell us to open an exercise book and do the sums. No teaching as such. When she left our next maths teacher couldn't believe how far behind we were so had to go through what the previous teacher didn't. Consequently we missed out learning about algebra and geometry, although he did go through the basics, but it was too late to get into them properly.

I always thought I was hopeless at maths but since, through the years, have realised that I'm not too bad and can remember numbers easiy. By yhe way, did you realise that the answers to every 9 times table always add up to 9 eg 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, etc.?

Our sons are either side of 40 now, but when they were small, we intentionally had only "ticking" clocks (as Col put it) in our home, at bedsides and on walls. They were the only kids in their school classes who didn't need a digital clock to tell time.

In school when I was a child, we also learned the times tables by rote but I'd never noticed that all the 9x answers add up to 9 as Joan pointed out!

You always bring up such interesting topics, Pat! Ta!

Hugs!

Ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide are basic skills and should be mandatory. Anyone without a good foundation has been cheated and will struggle going forward. In my community, when a parent sees their child falling behind they hire a private tutor. I find some children do not acquire skills quickly, yet the classroom instruction moves forward and this results in some children being left behind. A friend taught reading to 2-3 grade students and her classes were 25-30 children. She made sure each child read fluently upon leaving her class. They knew their vowels, consonants and blends as well as could write a complete simple sentence. Parents often begged to have their child in her class. Ellen was a dedicated teacher.

I am sad at the young ones who cannot figure out what change to give you if the till doesn't tell them. It is very useful knowing the times table.

Derek Faulkner comments above that children, 'from the age of 6 have the answer to all their problems in their pocket. on a Smart Phone'.

I can say with absolute certainty that our Grandson does not have a cell phone, smart or otherwise. Giving a young child a cell phone is a ridiculous idea, and our son and daughter in law would never do that!

Some children, hopefully the majority, are still being brought up in a sensible fashion, by responsible parents and grandparents who want to raise a well rounded, polite, friendly, communicative young adult!

Our Grandson knows how the toaster works too, but is not allowed to use it without an adult present, for obvious reasons!

I can remember my times tables and they come in very handy even now. I think that reading, writing and arithmetic are still the bare essentials of education even though times have obviously changed since I left school 70 years ago.

I'm 70 and I also learned my times tables by rote. I was and still am very good at math. I can add a column of numbers with out a calculator. At first it was difficult for me until I realized that I had been adding, subtracting and multiplying before I entered school. I grew up on a farm in a rural community and my parents also owned the grocery store. I also attended the local 4 classroom grade school through all 8 grades. My mother said to me one night while I was struggling with my homework to stop and listen to her for a minute. She said you boys collect the soda pop bottles from along the roads and what do you do with them? I said that we cash them in at the store for 2 cents each. How much are the candy bars? I said 5 cents. How many cents make a dollar? I said 100. So she said asked again how many pennies do you get for a soda pop bottle. I said 2 pennies. You have 10 soda pop bottle how many pennies do you get for them? 20 pennies I said. See you can do it. I said what? She said 2 times 10 equals 20. I was quiet. She asked again what is 3 times 10? I had known all along simple addition, subtraction and multiplication. She also eventually showed me fractions as well. I had been growing up in the grocery next to my grandmother the cashier. I had seen and heard her do math since I was 3 years old. I had to connect to something with relevance, the soda pop bottles. The same was true with selling eggs on the farm. The fruit from the trees, bushes and vines were sold by dry measure. Ask people today if they know what a peck is or even ask them what a bushel is. If the teachers had simplified things a little better and showed us by relevance to the things we alredy knew we would have learned quicker. The best thing about having two grades in the same classroom was that each half learned from the other. It worked very well in that rural school. Most of us went on to be very successful in our lives. I could have probably done this it a little easier but the Parkinson's is making me think and type slower but I think I got my point across.

Super answers everybody and masses of food for thought. Thank you all for responding so well.

Late to the party here!

My father taught maths..he taught the boys who didn't want to be at school, so he taught them the patterns in the times tables...for example adding up the answers in the 9 times table and they always make 9 ! ...and they began to see fun in learning.

That's how he got me into maths as well.

I agree 100% with you. The biggest complement I ever got was from a guy who became a college instructor. He said the best thing I made him do was the practice. I think many other things are necessary not because of use but because of logic. Geometry is a good example.

I just do multiplication in my head these days! Aslong as it is 2 X 2

My math skills are apparently terrible. I can add, subtract, multiply and divide IN MY HEAD, but beyond that, no go.

I can’t always remember all of my times tables but I can work it out using maths skills, for which I am most grateful.

A lot of what I had to learn at school I never needed again in my life, but I believe there was much more that I actually have been putting to good use, last but not least social skills, how to fit in (or stay apart) from a group, work im a team and so on.

I was largely not interested in sciences but much later, when I became interested in all things space, I understood how important those subjects are and wish I had paid better attention.

Languages were always my forte and I never had problems seeing the sense in that.

My mantra whilst teaching was that 'Education should prompt questions rather than providing answers'. I never taught Maths; just Art and Latin.

My spiral notebook has a times table page. I rarely use it because it is faster to move from either 5 times or down from 10 times. I do remember every zip code where I've lived.

I totally agree, the secure knowledge of basic facts is the grounding necessary for so much, and needs to have been taught and regularly practiced so it remains secure and automatic. It's needed for everyday living - if you're trying to work out which size purchase is , or 'special' is more economic and those facts aren't automatic, you'll loose track of what you were trying to compare before you've got to the end of your comparison.

It's also applicable to the skill of reading - reading opportunities need to be provided every single day - not "hard" reading, easy, enjoyable reading, so the students run their eyes past a few hundred words every single day is what makes readers. They enjoy it, they feel good about it, they make progress.

Whilst tables are excellent grounding maths problems in the British education system go a lot deeper than this. There is most certainly a problem for those aiming higher than the Tesco check out girl. The lowest common denominator is all very well but it not the thing to aim for and Sunak is taking a step to correct this.

Jenn's, Col's and Barbara Anne's comments about the old 'ticking clock' learning made me think.

I was put up a year in Infant's school as we called it in the 50's, with no mixed year level classes at the time. I coped well, and held my own with everything but the damned clock face. As a littlie I felt defeated and puzzled how everyone else understood it.

I mention this because coming out of anaesthetic in recovery as an adult, everything made sense, including conversations, except the ticking clock face in the recovery room and the ward. I willed myself to work out the time as I stared at it, but again, the inability despite my best efforts, felt so curious.- Pam.

I used to dread a supply teacher that came into school when I was about 8. She always started with us chanting the tables. It was truly awful. I do know my tables but for a good few years I hated maths.

As an adult I got a degree and phd in physics then I took PGCE course to teach maths and science at secondary level in the late 80's. At the time I got a bursary from the Stock Exchange which was to encourage people to get into teaching maths and science because there was such a shortage of teachers.

For the practice part of the course I was at a girl's school in a depressed inner city. One of the classes was general science in 3rd form, which was to give an idea of what the science choices at GCSE for the next year. This particular class was showing the difference between having batteries in series or in parallel. One of the students asked me why they had to learn it because she was going to work in a shop. I couldn't think of a reason! At the end of my course I never stepped foot into a classroom again.

Helen

All primary children have to learnt their tables and are expected to know them by rote up to 12x12 by the end of Y4 (2nd year juniors), taking a statutory test in them at that time, the results of which are reported back like the Y 1 phonic screen and the end of key stage SATs. However, the focus is on using them in context as well as just knowing them. xx

Yes, I l memorized them in 3rd grade, and helped my sons do the same. I disliked math and struggled with algebra and geometry until I had a tutor. Once I understood how it worked, math was like a puzzle to me, and I excelled from there right through trigonometry and calculus---neither of which I have ever used in the 50- some years since those classes

Same here Granny Sue!

The sevens are a bit hard, eights okay and the nines, thanks to the rule of nines, are easy. I have shown several children how the digits of nine times anything adds up to nine 9X3=27, 2=7=9 Why do they not teach kids these things?

They do, hart - at least the schools I know in the UK do. Anything to make tables more accessible. The children also love the finger method for the nine times tables too. xx

Thought I'd ask my daughter , a teacher for her district's elementary gifted pupils, about teaching the times tables. It seems in her district, that it is up to the individual teachers! My daughter checked to see how her students did and found they were "good" !

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