Because innumeracy has a sort of reverse prestige in the U.S., there’s a sad lack of respect for memorizing the times tables. When I worked briefly as a substitute teacher, I found out that every student in the algebra class who was struggling with factoring quadratic equations was also struggling with remembering their times tables, as Chester Draws says. While parents I’ve known will grudgingly accept that spelling drills and vocabulary lessons are needed for reading, they are much less likely to acknowledge that the times tables are part of the basic vocabulary for math.

There are uses for technology in education. I am very fond of the dictionary feature on my e-reader, despite its limitations. I think it would have been helpful when I was learning and reading in a foreign language to be able to look up a comprehensive definition of the word that was in the foreign language and also in translation. Looking up words in a conventional foreign language dictionary really slows reading down and makes it less pleasurable. I might well have kept or improved my fluency, especially if the dictionary entries had included audible pronunciations.

]]>Many of my classmates, though, probably never *did* need it, as they pursued less math-heavy paths through the educational systems.

Yes, as Chester Draws implies, the benefits of knowing your tables are pretty subconscious when you get to secondary education. You're using them all the time manipulating figures and equations and assessing them for plausibility.

Rote learning is decried nowadays, perhaps rightly in many cases, but I seem to remember that we almost enjoyed chanting the tables. Those with an interest in data processing will benefit from the 16x table.

Can you learn Latin without chanting the verb conjugations?

]]>Perhaps because you haven't taught maths, so don't see the links?

To reach Calculus you need to be able to factorise. And to learn how to factorise you need to know basic facts. How can you factorise 18x + 27 if you don't know your 9 times tables? So those students with no timestables never get anywhere near calculus, being unable to do elementary algebra (and not through want of trying, but because they don't have sufficient grounding).

To be good at maths requires that you understand how numbers work. Multiplying leads to division. Division leads to rearranging equations. Rearranging allows you to solve. And so on.

It would be like trying to teach students to analyse a text when they don't read very well. An issue my English teacher colleagues face daily.

]]>I recited the times table* dutifully and frequently in primary school and I can't think of any way that this activity made it easier to learn trigonometry and calculus later.

*Our times table went all the way to 12, I assume because I grew up in the age of pounds, shillings and pence. But again, this knowledge was of no value in making change with the old currency, for which we had arcane methods of addition and subtraction.

]]>A simplistic analysis perhaps. In Bavaria we have the CSU (rated conservative by the media) pushing for every schoolchild to have a tablet. And contrary to Sascha Lobo we have in – of all places – the computer magazine c't – a renowned professor of Schulpädagogik arguing against.

]]>The West has **already** had that fundamental change, and the results have been poor to terrible. Every time a country has moved from "traditional" methods to "progressive" ones there has been a slide in results.

I am now expected to teach high school maths to students who do not have a firm grasp of their times tables "because they will have calculators", and are therefore basically innumerate.

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