Myriad ways to learn times tables

As a retired teacher I was staggered to hear about the cumbersome methods of learning times tables still in use (Letters, 19 February). I taught them to seven- and eight-year-olds by regarding them as factors and multiples (9, 7 are the factors, 63 the multiple). Starting with smaller numbers, I would ask the children to think of the factors of, say, 8 – ie 2, 4, 8 and 1, as well as practising pairing them: 4 x 2, 8 x 1. Moving to larger numbers as the children achieved fluency such as 18 (6, 3, 9, 2, 18, 1) then 24 (6, 4, 8, 3, 12, 2, 24, 1) etc, until 48 became 8, 6, 4, 2, 12, 24, 1, and all the way to 8 x 12 = 96, the children became as familiar with them as knowing that a cat has four legs.

When more complex maths is tackled, later, it is a huge help when, for example, 56 is confidently known to have the factors 8, 7, 4, 2, 14, 28, 56 rather than it seeming a figure with no meaning at all.
Margaret Davis

• I hate going to the dentist but have found the internal recitation of times tables as the chair goes back and the drilling begins controls the panic. The 7 and 8 times tables are good, and can be repeated as often as necessary. Times tables have occasionally been a useful sedative when hours of wakefulness have threatened, but you have to go beyond 12; getting to 20 is very satisfying and often induces somnolence.
Sue Edwards
Oakham, Rutland

• I』m fine with times tables up to 12 x 12, but can only add or subtract numbers up to about 20 in my head. Years ago I played for a ladies darts team and the other members (whose work involved handling money in shops, cafes, bars and offices) couldn』t understand how I could have a science PhD, but be so useless at scoring.
Jane Sutherland

• I find John Porter’s simple example of finding the answer to 7 x 9 by squaring 8 and subtracting 1 squared somewhat puzzling. Surely to use this method you would need a knowledge of the 8 times table in the first place.
Pamela Roberts

• Surely the easiest way to compute the 9 times table is to multiply by 10 and deduct the first factor from the result, eg 7 x 9 is (7 x 10) – 7 = 63. I』ve been doing it this way for more years than I care to think about.
Judith Kent

• At school in the 1940s, we used to sing our tables to the tune of The Ash Grove. I am now 86 and have no trouble with 7 x 9 – I just sing it!
Ann Jones
Charmouth, Dorset

• My uncle, who was educated in the late 1920s, used to say 「I learned the tunes but couldn』t remember the words」.
Ann Mabbott
Prescot, Merseyside

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