Monday, 13 August 2012

Times tables - what happens later...

Hi Michael,

My name's James Gill, I'm a maths student at the University of Manchester, and I don't know my times tables (especially the sevens). I remember during junior school they were very keen for us to learn them, and they tested us in two main ways, by a timed test filling in a times table square up to the tens and by reciting them in front of the class. The former I was able to game as I could spot the patterns (e.g. tens ending in an 0, fives alternating 0, 5 etc) and they gave us enough time that if you were quick at working them out, you could, which I did. The latter I got round because I have a pretty excellent short term memory, so I just looked at the table we were going to be tested on a minute or two before, and promptly forgot it after I said it out loud. So I left the juniors not knowing them. It hasn't really affected me since, as you always get enough time to work them out on the spot in non-calculator tests, at GCSE, A Level and uni. I don't use any special tricks to work them out, just the distributive law.

Not sure I think there's any more point in memorising them than there is memorising world capitals, to be honest. Even as a eleven year old I could tell it was the patterns, not the facts, which were important, and I'm nothing special as a mathematician.