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Why are times tables so important?

Ofsted, the schools watchdog highlights the the importance of learning times tables

“Pupils should be able to recite their times tables up to 12 x 12 by the age of nine.”

Primary schools that fail to teach times table by heart are condemning children to a lifetime struggling with numbers, inspectors have warned.

A study published by Ofsted, says pupils without instant recall of multiplication tables struggle at maths.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said, “It is vital that all children can grasp and master arithmetic while they are still at primary school. If we fail children at this early stage, the risk is they will never catch up.

It is important that pupils are fluent in calculation and have learnt the multiplication tables by heart before they leave primary school.”

The warning came in a study of top-performing schools, which for the first time has included independent schools, adding to evidence that ministers are determined to overhaul teaching in the state system to resemble the approach found in private schools.

“Lack of fluency with multiplication tables is a significant impediment to fluency with multiplication and division,” the report said. “Many low-attaining secondary pupils struggle with instant recall of tables.

“Teachers in the schools visited included fluent recall of multiplication tables as an essential prerequisite to success in multiplication.”

Jean Humphrys, Ofsted’s education director, said a range of methods could be used to teach times tables but that the teaching must be “rigorous”.

“It is really important that children have the tools of arithmetic at their finger tips,” she said. “Without that it is like sending a plumber out to do a job without knowing how to use a spanner.”