Building Blocks Of Maths

Exploring the basic building blocks of maths through Professor Ian Stewart’s views on the subject of times tables

Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick has raised some interesting comments in an article published recently. He states that there are some basic pieces of maths that we all need to know without having to think, look them up or reach for a calculator.

This is such an important view to hold. Many people think that because we now can use calculators that it is not so important to learn times tables. Calculators will give you the answer but it takes time and you also need to have a calculator at hand.

In fact, I believe that we have to know the times tables as well as we know our own names. This then gives us the confidence and ability to tackle more difficult maths. He raises the issue that there is a battle between traditionalists and modernisers as to whether times tables are worth teaching.

I very much share Ian Stewart’s view that they definitely are worth teaching. It is incredible that this should be debated. Both parties should be looking for ways to learn times tables for instant recall rather than defending their own teaching methods.

Knowing times tables without having to think is the key. Everything you learn later is built on this. Ian Stewart gives us the lovely metaphor ‘it will be like trying to ride a bike when you can’t remember which bits are the pedals’.

It is no surprise that so many have a fear of maths when they don’t have confidence in the basics. Maths is everywhere affecting so many aspects of our lives.

Another point highlighted is about the patterns in the tables from adding a zero to each number for the 10 times tables, 10 x 6 = 60, to the multiples of the 9 times tables

9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90

The last number descends

9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Patterns are important. Notice the patterns, enjoy the patterns. See numbers as fun.

But remember patterns alone will not be enough to learn the times tables. At the end of the article the professor mentions that times tables do not have to be learned as they have been in the past.

At the click of a mouse there are many ways online to learn times tables which are fun and interesting and all you need to do is to find the right one. However, this still leaves you not knowing which route to take.

I believe that parents should look for a system which uses images, questions and location to get to a position where their children can instantly recall their times tables. This makes learning times tables interesting and fun, and leads to confidence in maths.

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