This question was inspired by a different question on this site which asked by what grade times tables had to be learned. The consensus seemed to be that it is essential that you learn basic times tables for single digit numbers.

I'm asking mainly because I'm in my mid thirties and still don't really feel like I remember my times tables and often spend some amount of time even deciding what 6*4 or 8*4 is, never mind things like 7*8 or 7*6. In many cases I end up either performing some arithmetic trick (6*4=2*12=24, 8*4=10*4-2*4=32) or just add/subtract from a known value (7*6=6*6+6=42, 8*7=8*8-8).

Having said that I hold two Masters in mathematics (one in abstract algebra and one in set theory) from different universities and I have never had any issues with dealing with fractions, algebraic manipulation or similar. My arithmetic tends to be slow, but that seems to rarely be an issue.

To further elaborate on the question and make it more distinct from the possible duplicate. Is there any actual research that causally connects not learning multiplication tables by rote with having problems with further abstract mathematics? Any such research would obviously have to eliminate the possibility that the students that haven't learned multiplication tables by rote are also in general less suited for further mathematical education (that is there isn't some underlying cause of both and instead there is a causal link).

Edit: I'm not sure that the question suggested as duplicate isn't a duplicate but the answers to that question are in my opinion unsubstantiated and incomplete. The only answer substantiated by anything other than "this is what I think/from my experience" just cites a paper which doesn't even answer the question at all. Though that paper cites many papers that might answer the question that seems a bit of a long stretch.

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    $\begingroup$ How would you simplify fractions or factor a polynomial when either requires recognizing a greatest common factor? $\endgroup$
    – Amy B
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What are the arguments for and against learning multiplication table by heart? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ 1. Speed. 2. To trigger search for patterns. $\endgroup$
    – Dirk
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ This question has received some renewed interested over the last week, after a TES piece mentioned comments from Stanford's Jo Boaler; see,e.g., the section: Banning times tables. Googling indicates Boaler's position on the matter is neither sudden nor new. (I do not mean to endorse the position; only to mention contemporary news about it.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ This brings to mind a scene in Ionesco's La Leçon (1950) in which the professor warns his graduate student that she will never understand profoundly the principles of arithmetic if she cannot calculate correctly. To prove his point, he asks how will she ever know what 3755998251 times 5163303508 is? She immediately replies with the correct answer. He says she's wrong, check, and amazed asks how does she know it without knowing the principles of arithmetical reasoning. She replies she learned by heart all the possible products of all the numbers. $\endgroup$
    – user1815
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


I taught gifted students in 4th-6th grades and it was important for them to know their times tables. We simplified fractions, performed long division, identified prime numbers and performed calculations with multi-digit numbers. Students who didn't know the facts practiced on Flashmasters, an excellent electronic flashcard system.

Having said that, my standard for knowing the facts is lower than many of my colleagues. Most of my colleagues insist on the ability to instantly recall facts and their standard is 100 facts in 3 minutes. My standard was a test of all the facts up to 10 by 10 (45 facts in all) in 5 minutes (although most could pass in 3 minutes). Given what you said about using mathematical tricks to find your facts, I believe you would have passed the standard for knowing the facts.

There will always be students who could recall facts in under 2 seconds (as confirmed by the flashmaster), but those who took a little longer whether because they figured them out or they just weren't as fast did fine.

My conclusion it is necessary to know the facts, but there are different levels of knowing them and your level is fine. Many of my colleagues would disagree, but perhaps you are a good example of the fact that my standards work.


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