The times table is often treated by schools as a grid of number facts that need to memorized, no matter how difficult, painful and time consuming this may be. If schools took the same approach with addition and subtraction however, we would have a grid of standard addition problem answers to memorize and likewise one for subtraction problems.

But addition and subtraction are more readily recognized as number skills, part of a numeracy syllabus. If we can let go of hundreds of years of tradition for one moment and consider how easily mental multiplication could be treated as a skill, we could do away with memorizing the answers to the times table grid altogether. And such a skill could be developed in a fraction of the time, with less pain too.

In recent years, many people have challenged how appropriate it is to attempt to learn the times table up to 12x12. Some prefer to limit the learning objective to 10x10 often citing decimalization as the reason for this, without speaking out the truth which underlies their motivation, being a preference to dumb-down the learning objective as it is then easier to accomplish.

On the other hand, those who value the ability to multiply (typically those who are comfortable themselves and often fail to see the problem through other people's eyes) suggest raising the bar to empower students with skills based on enlarging the times table to cover up to 20x20 or even 100x100. This kind of goal cries out for a skill-based approach, rather than memorization of number facts.

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