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Times Tables: Why are they so important?


Learning the multiplication facts (times tables as they are more commonly referred to) often brings with it stress, anxiety and frustration. So is the hard-work worth the slog?


Being completely honest, I didn't know my times tables in primary school and probably went through most of high school without being fluent in them too. I remember the anxiety I felt around them in the weekly tests and those exercises where I had to stand up in class and answer the questions. I also remember finding certain calculations tricky and time consuming too. However, as a teacher I can see the huge difference these fiddly facts make to children's confidence and competence as mathematicians.


Maths is all about patterns and connections. Multiplication facts play a huge part in the jigsaw. They underpin simple calculations but also provide pathways to calculate larger calculations mentally too. They underpin the written methods of multiplication and division, the understanding of fractions, application of percentages, algebra, sequences and much more. Spending the time to learn these fiddly facts in primary school really pays off and reduces the feelings of anxiety and frustration around Maths.


When we consider how our children are assessed in school, we can recognise how the lack of times tables knowledge impacts their mathematical attainment. In Year 6, children sit three standardised tests: Mental Arithmetic and two Reasoning papers. In the 2022, Year 6 standardised assessment, 26 of the 36 questions within the Mental Arithmetic paper had an element of times tables knowledge within them. Children are given 30 minutes to calculate all 36 questions. This requires a good knowledge and speed of recall as well as efficient calculation methods. At GCSE, there is no escape either. The first paper is non calculator too.


Learning the multiplication facts starts as early as Reception and Year 1. The children don't necessarily know they are learning their multiplication facts but they are taking the first, most important steps in this journey: learning to count in equal steps of 2 and 10 with physical resources. As children develop confidence in counting physical objects they learn to create drawings that support their understanding of multiplication facts. These are called arrays (see the diagram below).


An array representing 3 x 5 = 15 and therefore 5 x 3 = 15 too.

From my experience as a pupil, parent, teacher and now private tutor, the stress and anxiety around times tables usually arises from one or more of the following areas:


  • A lack of understanding that times tables are repeated addition facts.

  • An inability to count in equal steps of the number they are working on.

  • A lack of strategies to use jottings to work out the answer.

  • Being moved on to learning a new set of facts too quickly

  • A feeling of overwhelm as the child doesn't recognise the facts they know or have a target of which sets to work on.

  • a lack of practice to retain, consolidate and recall these facts.


The reality is that most children won't learn these facts confidently at school alone. They do require regular practice at home too. Setting aside 1 minutes everyday to practise one set of times tables is a huge investment in a children's mathematical progress. Learning to count in equal steps on their fingers is a strategy in the right direction. There are lots of great apps and websites that can help children to practise and retain these facts too.


I am so passionate about supporting children to learn their times tables that I am holding a FREE 48hr Times Tables Challenge on Wednesday 2nd November at 4pm in my private Facebook group (The recordings will also be available after the event until the 30th November 2022 too). If you would like your child to join in and soar with confidence in their 3 times tables, sign up today.


Watch this space: I am currently writing a children's Times Tables Workbook and a Times Tables Course to help learning these fiddly facts at home much easier.

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