Times Tables

6 Jan

Last week Nicky Morgan MP put forward her policy for establishing a new test for times tables for all 11 year olds under her jurisdiction.  It was inevitable that she, and no doubt other cabinet members in future, would be grilled on their own capabilities.  Somewhat embarrassingly for the English Education Secretary while preaching about the importance of recalling times tables she point blank refused to be quizzed on them herself.

Of course, as pretty much everyone knows, teachers are already teaching children times tables.  It is hard to believe that such a policy will actually change the approach of teachers already committed to developing mental arithmetic among their pupils.  That said, one impact of this policy in England is that it will continue to disenfranchise teachers who already feel that their professionalism is under threat due to constant political interference.  It is a policy less about improving standards and very much about simply introducing another test to an already over-tested group of pupils.

The truth is the world has moved on.  Children learn in different ways in the digital age and using a calculator, or phone, is a simple way of looking up times tables.  Teachers do still ensure that mental arithmetic is a strong focus in their lessons, and the times tables are taught, but we must also be mindful of the modern world and make sure that children and young people use the computing ability on their mobile phones so they can get that at their fingertips. Recall is not the only way to make sure you understand mathematical concepts.  This notion of expecting and needing children to be able to do everything from memory is ignorant to the fact we live in the google age.  That’s not to say building memory capacity and skills is not important.  It is not to say that knowing your times tables isn’t important.  However, it is to say that establishing it as a primary focus to hold schools accountable in a world where that is not how people operate is at best short-sighted.



One Response to “Times Tables”


  1. What education bloggers have said about times tables tests | Scenes From The Battleground - January 23, 2016

    […] Alice In Wonderland to Hard Times, but seemed to object. Education commentator, Owen Hathway also opposed the tests, claiming that tables tests were unnecessary and interfering, and […]

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