13 Nov 2011
A study published by Ofsted, the schools watchdog, says pupils without instant recall of multiplication tables struggle in maths.
It also condemned a modern teaching method which replaces traditional learning with "chunking" numbers as "cumbersome and confusing".
And it said that in schools which teach maths well, pupils tended to use traditional methods to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
Jean Humphrys, Ofsted's education director, said a range of methods could be used to teach times tables but that the teaching must be "rigorous".
"It is really important that children have the tools of arithmetic at their finger tips," she said. "Without that it is like sending a plumber out to do a job without knowing how to use a spanner."