Thursday, 14 January 2016

Which times tables do we REALLY need to remember?

Times Tables.

To begin, I asked my class what their gut feeling is when they think about recalling times tables. 

- nervousness, confidence, butterflies, sense of pride, ease, makes me feel a bit sick.......

Which times table facts do we find the trickiest to recall?

These shared feelings and thoughts served as simple informal assessment of where my students are at with this.

Our investigation:

Let's find out which time table facts we REALLY need to remember by heart.

Looking at the times table grid, which are the easiest to recall?

We all agreed to was the nought times tables and we discussed why nought multiplied by something is always nought.

We next agreed that the 1s we the next easiest to know and again we discussed what it means when we are multiplying a number or an object by 1.

The 10s we also easy we felt:

Next, some of us felt the 2s and others the 5s were the easiest. We took a vote and the 2s won so we recorded those on our grids:

We then showed how the 5s are easy:

At this point, I was expected the 11s to be stated as the next easiest, but our class vote showed the 4s were.  I asked why not the 3s and some students shared how the pattern between knowing the 2s so well makes knowing the 4s easier.  Interesting. 

So, then came the 3s.....
We paused here and reflected on what our grid was already looking like.
- It's easy to recall more than half of them.
- They don't look so tricky when we look at them this way.

Then, FINALLY the 11s were nominated as the next easiest, but we decided only up to 9 x 11 /  11 x 9.   Looking at this, as a class we then decided we should have nominated the 11s much earlier, but it was because we hadn't realised we needed to be able to recall ALL of them. I apologised for not communicating this more clearly. 

We wrote 11 x 12  / 12 x 11 on the board as two that we REALLY need to reinforce for ourselves remember.  

Looking at our grid, a student then suggested that we should fill in the doubles:  6 x 6, 7 x 7, 8 x 8, 9 x 9

Another student supported this idea by explaining how 'for some reason, those ones stay in our brain easily when we learnt them in previous years'.  We discussed this and most agreed so we included those as more that we didn't REALLy need to reinforce remembering. 

A student then remarked how the 9 times tables are also easy to recall because of the pattern they form:


For some of us, seeing the pattern of the units and the tens was new revelation.  Despite this easy pattern, as a class we felt they should't be included on our grid though. 

From here, we looked at what was actually left over:

We found the following were the 'only' ones we really needed to reinforce in our minds:

For those students in particular, who initially shared ill feelings / thoughts about recalling times tables they now started sharing how much more positive they felt about recalling times tables.  They suggested they will make personal action plans at home to reinforce being able to recall these ones as a 'nice trick to master them' as one student claimed. 

Sometimes even the 'scary' parts of maths can be alleviated with some pretty simple enquiry strategies.....


  1. Great post on inquiry into multiplication!

  2. Thanks so much for your feedback Swarn! It's really kind of you to say. Hope it helps :)

  3. You are always such an inspiration. I love your site and use it all the time. Thankyou

  4. You are always such an inspiration. I love your site and use it all the time. Thankyou

    1. Thanks for taking the time to give such lovely feedback Tracey. It's nice to know it helps. ( sorry for the late response- summer holidays 😉)

  5. Graeme, thank you so much for sharing. I have just found your site and have experienced so many 'Wow' moments. This is exactly what I was looking for. I knew I wanted to do inquiry maths but didn't know where to start. I actually can't wait to try these ideas and the ones on the Inquiry Maths site with my students. Thank you again. (Queensland Teacher)

  6. Thanks Graeme for taking kids into the Zone of Proximal Development and then making the uncomfortable comfortable and manageable. Nice job. Did the students ask or wonder why we even need to know the 11 and 12's when we know the 1's, 2's and 10's ?


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