Table talk

6th February 1998 at 00:00
The people who pontificate that times tables are easily remembered and only need to be taught properly, are those who have easy recall. There are many - perhaps the majority - who do not and it is they who must be considered if tables are to be on the syllabus again.

When I was a mathematics teacher in secondary school, I was hearing for the 6 x table:

1 x 6 =6

2 x 6 = 12 etc. This is read: one times six equals six, two times six equals twelve. The tables are a mnemonic and should be taught in such a way. The brain can cope better with:

6 x 1 = 6

6 x 2 = 12

6 x 3 = 18 etc. This read: six times one equals six, six times two equals 12, six times three equals 18. Always beginning with the same number also helps the mnemonic.

To my mind, learning the easier tables (that is, 2x, 5x, 10x) before the others makes the learning unnecessarily difficult. For the fact that 6 x 3 is the same as 3 x 6 can be seen early and if the tables are taught in order then there are fewer combinations to learn and to end up with the easiest, the 10x is a bonus.

I would urge inspectors and teachers to think very carefully of the difficulties met in learning and the consequence, application and reason for learning the times tables, and pursue a common policy throughout the mathematical spectrum from infants to university.

MRS BA BROWN 8 Garden Court London NW8

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