Primary schools which fail to teach times tables by heart are condemning children to a lifetime struggling with numbers, inspectors have warned.
Julie Henry, Education Correspondent
10:00AM GMT 13 Nov 2011
A study published by Ofsted, the schools watchdog, says pupils without instant recall of multiplication tables struggle in maths.
It also condemned a modern teaching method which replaces traditional learning with "chunking" numbers as "cumbersome and confusing".
And it said that in schools which teach maths well, pupils tended to use traditional methods to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
Jean Humphrys, Ofsted's education director, said a range of methods could be used to teach times tables but that the teaching must be "rigorous".
"It is really important that children have the tools of arithmetic at their finger tips," she said. "Without that it is like sending a plumber out to do a job without knowing how to use a spanner."
10 Nov 2011
08 Nov 2011
Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: "It is vital that all children can grasp and master arithmetic while they are still at primary school. If we fail children at this early stage, the risk is they will never catch up.
"It is important that pupils are fluent in calculation and have learnt the multiplication tables by heart before they leave primary school."
The warning came in a study of top-performing schools, which for the first time has included independent schools, adding to evidence that ministers are determined to overhaul teaching in the state system to resemble the approach found in private schools.
"Lack of fluency with multiplication tables is a significant impediment to fluency with multiplication and division," the report said. "Many low-attaining secondary pupils struggle with instant recall of tables.
"Teachers in the schools visited included fluent recall of multiplication tables as an essential prerequisite to success in multiplication."
Inspectors cast doubt on modern methods of calculation adopted by many state primaries, which include "chunking", where simple division questions are solved by repeated subtraction.
The method, which often baffles parents, was described as "cumbersome and confusing", particularly for the lower attaining pupils that it was initially introduced to help.
Multiplication tables form part of the National Curriculum in maths but some schools have been more rigorous than others at teaching them.
Many parents complain that their children only seem to know the 2, 5 and ten times tables, which the national curriculum specifies must be taught in the first few years of primary school.