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How do children learn their times tables…and how should they?

Times tables form the foundations of all maths/numeracy knowledge and understanding. They are fundamental building blocks upon which all maths is built beginning in Primary School and continuing into Secondary School, Higher Education and beyond.

I often hear from parents that they are unsure of how to teach this all important strand of arithmetic and usually rely on memorisation techniques. Whilst memorisation as a tool does have it’s place, it must be used only after the child has first developed their understanding of what times tables mean; what they are actually doing when they work out their times tables.

It is critical that children learn the WHY and not simply the WHAT. It is the WHY that enables children to become problem-solvers, critical and creative thinkers and independent individuals, When we teach, we are not simply looking at one isolated problem but rather how this one problem fits within the bigger learning picture. We are enabling children to make meaningful connections in their learning; something which is not possible if we simply teach the memorisation of formulas with no supporting understanding. Method over formula!

The three phases of teaching times table

There are 3 Key Phases:

Phase 1: Grouping

Phase 2: Number Lines/Squares

Phase 3: Repeated Addition & Memorisation

Each phase builds upon knowledge in the previous phase and serves to provide understanding of the different developmental and learning stages children progress through when learning their times tables with LS Tuition.

Times table guide

The LS Tuition Guide to Timestables provides a tried and tested methodology for teaching times tables from the beginning to the end of Primary School. The idea is that Phase 1 will begin around the end of P2 or beginning of P3 in Scotland or Y2 in England. At this stage, children begin by learning number facts for the 2x, 5x and 10x tables. By the beginning of P4 in Scotland and Y3 in England, children will progress to learning the remaining times tables by way of the third and final Phase outlined in the guide.

Phase 3 lasts through the remaining years of Primary school though ordinarily by P5/P6 in Scotland or Y4/Y5 in England, children will have reached the final memorisation phase whereby they can recall their times tables quickly and accurately.

Of course this is not to say that every child will follow this exact timeframe. Children all learn at their own pace and are each on their own individual learning journey. Part of what we do at LS Tuition is targetted assessment to ascertain at which phase of their understanding each child is. Once the specific phase has been identified for each child, targeted learning plans can be made to meet the child at their current level and support them in working through the phases in a meaningful way.

Here are some of LS Tuition’s favourite resources timestables learning in Phase 3!


  2. Number Rock Times table songs on YouTube

  3. 'Hit the button' quick fire maths games (Times Tables)

LS Tuition Times Table Parent Guide


Lydia Scaltsas: Experienced Primary Teacher & Private Tutor

Graduated from University of Strathclyde with a 1st Class Honors in BA (Hons) Primary Education.

Registered with the General Teaching Council (GTCS)

Owner and Private Tutor at LS Tuition:

Instagram: @lydias_tuition

Facebook: @LSTuition


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