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Multiplication times tables

Updated: May 16, 2020

Multiplication times tables are essential to unlocking the mathematics curriculum linking, to all areas: addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, shapes and scale factors, decimals, percentages and statistics.

In England, many teachers use chanting and memorisation as strategies to recall multiplication times tables facts (and related division facts). That's 288 facts to remember for multiplication times tables facts notwithstanding the rest of the mathematics curriculum and indeed the rest of the national curriculum.

When I visited China in November 2019, I was struck with their approach to teaching multiplication times tables. It was simple, concise and only required the memorisation of 45 facts.

Here's how they did it. Starting with the 1 times tables, children practiced chanting the facts ("1, 1, 1 for 1 x 1 = 1, then, 1, 2, 2 and then 1, 3, 3 and so on). Children knew what 1 x 10 would be and could generalise what 2 x 10, 3 x 10 and so on would be so it was not included on the teaching model.

It was reasoned that if children knew that 1 x 2 = 2 then they did not need to remember the fact that 2 x 1 = 2 as they produce the same product. This commutativity model can reduce cognitive load and allow children to access multiplication times tables facts quickly.

You can download the model in our display packs here (Year 3 and 4):

Multiplication times tables display
Download PDF • 23KB

Of course, multiplication times tables should be taught so children have a conceptual understanding of the concepts. Recall is an effective strategy in retaining the concept and facts.

This model only demonstrates up to 10 x 10, and not 12 x 12 as is expected in the UK.

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