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If I were to be asked the most important skill associated with passing external examinations at age 16 or thereabouts, I would say without any shadow of a doubt it is a good knowledge of times tables. Through the 30 years of my teaching career, We have come across a lot of students (both in schools so when private students) who do not know their times tables at age 16 well enough to be able to calculate such things as a fifth of 45 or the total duration of 8 ropes, each 4.5 metres long. - times tables songs

The points I make have universal relevance across the whole world, even though i write as a teacher in the UK, so my examples relate specifically to this country. There exists a system of examinations now in which there is nearly always a calculator examination paper and a non-calculator paper at every level from age twelve. So a good knowledge of tables is definitely needed in the non-calculator paper, but is of great benefit in the calculator paper too, as knowing that seven eights is fifty six is much less time consuming than having to press the appropriate buttons on a calculator. Within an examination, seconds count.

A moment's thought will reveal most of the instances where times tables are employed. Every money symptom in any currency involving a multiplication ($12.67 x 9) or division (Discover the average of $34.50, $33.60, $59.90 and $46.80) uses times tables. Percentages (Find 17% of 12.50), fractions (cancel 45/75 to its lowest terms), geometry (discover the internal angles of a regular octagon), algebra (expand 7a(3a 6b 9c)) and speed problems (find the average speed of any car that travelled 960 kilometres in 8 hours) are just some of the many more examples that can be found on examination papers.

One way of practising times tables would be to complete random tables squares, i.e. tables squares where the numbers 1-10 are distributed randomly across the top of the table and down the left-hand side. I am just currently employing a number of 8 and 9 year olds in a local primary school, several of whom can already complete this type of table correctly in about 5 minutes. At sixteen years old, the fantastic greater part of students must be able to easily beat that period - and acquire every one of them correct, needless to say.

The question of whether times tables from 1 to 10 is enough often crops up. Should youngsters understand the eleven and twelve times tables? 1 to 10 is sufficient for all examination work and I would then concentrate on learning the square numbers up to 20 x 20 as these are very useful for Pythagoras' Theorem if you live in a mostly metric country. If you live in a country still using feet and inches for everyday measurements, then you will probably need to learn tables up to 12 x 12.

So, if you or your youngsters are taking external examination some time soon, the one thing you could do to improve your performance more than anything else is to get those tables well and truly in the old brain box!

Alan Young is a teacher of mathematics for thirty years in both primary and high schools. he has worked inside the private as well as the public sector and coached a huge number of private students in this subject.

He has also been responsible for a large amount of mathematics material that is used in over 18,000 schools throughout the uk and abroad. - times tables songs

Alan has two kids of his own, three foster children (now adult) and a stepson, so has brought up six teenagers altogether.
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