In recently announced plans, it appears that the government is going to change the primary school curriculum to include (amongst other things) teaching the times tables up to 12. Now I’m not sure about the other plans, but the insistence on the 12 times table sounds a little to me like an old-school Tory frothing at the mouth declaring that if they had to learn the 12 times table then everyone else should do as well.
Why did we learn the 12 times table? Yes, me too! Who knows, but it may have something to do with 12 inches to the foot. Which of course is totally irrelevant these days given we have sensible decimal based units.
There are those who say that the bigger the times table you learn, the more useful it is. True enough, but once you get past the 10 times table, the incremental value diminishes. And there’s one thing that people forget: Learning the times table is just about the most tedious learning it is possible to do and each extra increment to the size of the times table we teach children should have a damn big incremental value.
Or to put in other words, the larger you make the times table, the more children get turned off maths. Is it worth turning children off maths for those extra 2 numbers 11 and 12? Far better to avoid putting off those children and just teach the 10 times table. If you know that, and a few tricks, then any multiplication is possible.
And frankly a lot of simple arithmetic tricks can be sold as “cheats” which is undoubtedly a nifty way of getting children to have fun whilst learning maths.