Why test times tables?

Filling the pail

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement in London (the TES), David Boorman questions plans to introduce a timed test of times tables to English schools.

Boorman’s first concern is that of ‘maths anxiety’. He worries that timing tests in this way will lead to more anxious students. I have no doubt the timed tests can make students anxious – although the evidence is hard to pin down – but I also see it as part of a teacher’s job to allay those fears and present such tests as a normal part of school life.

Boorman can’t see the need for a time limit, asking, “How long did Shakespeare take to write his plays? Does anyone care?”. I think this misses a key point: We want to test whether students have retained times tables as facts in their long term memory rather than checking whether they can work them out using working…

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