Why do we need to learn the times tables?

Why do we need to learn the times tables?

You wouldn’t dream of building a house without first digging the footings and putting the foundations in place.

Nor would you attempt to put a meal together without assembling the right ingredients in the correct proportions.

Everything starts with a solid foundation, and in maths, that’s where times tables comes in. Schools have to make sure that children learn the times tables as part of the national curriculum. There is no silver bullet to learning them; it is simply a case of going over and over it until it is solidified into memory.

When children (or parents!) complain about having to learn it, it’s because they haven’t understood why it’s important. A few years ago OFSTED did a study that said that, without a solid grasp of the times tables, children’s ability in maths suffered. If you can get children to understand this, they will more easily buy into the reason for learning.

It’s a short cut

For instance, another way of viewing a sound knowledge of times tables is taking a shortcut rather than going the long way round.

If you were presented with a maths equation such as (8 x 8) / 4

And if you just knew that 8 x 8 was 64, you would not lose valuable seconds working it out before getting on with the rest of the equation.

It also helps with division. Imagine having to answer 40 ÷ 8. If we knew our times tables we would come up with the answer in a nanosecond (it’s five). If we had to do 42 ÷ 8 ,we would instantly know the answer was 5 remainder 2.

In fact, the times tables is a key building block for the much harder multiplication and division that children need to learn later on. It’s also the foundation of fractions so it is vital know them to understand fractions.

And here’s the clincher.

It saves time – which really helps when it comes to the 11+

This is where it comes in really handy for the 11+ exam. The test doesn’t just want to test a child’s knowledge, it wants to see how quickly a child can access that knowledge.  How fast can they process the question and still get it right?  Maths comprises XX% of the test, if a child knows all the times tables, imagine how much faster and easier the whole thing will be?

It’s worth remembering, though, being able to remember the times tables isn’t the be all and end all, it won’t suddenly make you a maths genius. Rather, it’s a very useful building block along the way to building that magnificent house.


Here are some great resources for learning the times tables.

Hit the Button is available on Apple and Android is a fun way for kids to rapidly improve their times tables. The division tables are also very useful.

Times table practice books, like Carol Vorderman Times Table Made Easy, or Usborne Lift the Flap Times Tables for younger children. WHSmiths has a good collection.

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