old fashion classroomDo children still need to learn their number bonds and tables by rote?

As an elderly person with ADHD I am feeling rather conflicted about a conversation I had with a very lively 76 year old, who still does relief teaching to Junior Primary children.

For privacy purposes I will call her Helen. She has just completed a 3 month relief posting at a private school where the majority of the grade 3 children do not have English as their mother tongue.

Helen is no dragon but she is old school.

She doesn’t have classroom discipline problems because it is simply not an option.

Helen is warm, funny, very bright and not afraid to explore new concepts and technology.

However, she is horrified that the children can’t do basic arithmetic, now called maths. They get by with addition and subtraction using their fingers but are totally lost when it comes to multiplication.

Helen and I are of the generation who were taught by rote. We spent hours chanting our tables up to 12. No analysis or thinking required. It also applied to spelling and even learning history and geography. We regurgitated our text books and this was how we passed our exams.

With my limited knowledge of modern teaching methods, I support any method that helps each child learn effectively.

My experience of school is probably different from others of my generation not only because of my ADHD. A timid child, I never asked questions and followed the lead of my 5 older siblings.

Having been a slightly above average student in most subjects, I failed Maths hopelessly in matric. I had no clue why anyone would need Geometry and Trigonometry. (it is still a mystery but somehow I have survived).

Being a diligent student I spent hours studying theorems and formulas. My mind was a total blank on the day of the exam and I sat in a panic for 3 hours.

With our children rapidly overtaking us in their grasp of technology and the rise in the use of AI, should our children be taught basic maths and spelling by rote and then taught how to solve problems? If so, at what age should this happen?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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