Memory versus Understanding

Jul 3, 2021 | Carlingford

A child with a fast recall of maths questions can be perceived as being intelligent. It is certainly advantageous in exam conditions where there is the added time pressure imposed on students. Exams not only test the student’s ability to get the answer but also how efficient are the methods used.

The biggest issue with pure memorization is that some students can recall the answer but don’t understand the reasons why. They might know that 9 x 9 = 81 but they don’t know the fundamental basics of multiplication. The times table chart is meant to be used as a guide to aid with multiplication but for some, this is the blue print in their minds. They don’t have the mental structures to derive the answers if they forget.


A nine times table trick to help with memorization is to count what number is multiplied by nine and put that finger down. For example, 9 x 3, put the third finger down and you get 27. 9 x 8, put the eighth finger down and you get 72. While this helps with memorization and can be used to recall the nine times tables, it actually doesn’t help a child develop maths sense. What happens when it’s 9 x 13, there are not enough fingers on the hands to do the trick. Without the ability to formulate the answers, some students will give up because they don’t know the grouping properties of multiplication.

At Mathnasium we help students develop an understanding of maths that makes sense to them. We will work with your child so that they would be able to figure out 7 x 3 x 33 using mental math. We want children to feel empowered so they will feel confident in maths. This is far more beneficial than memorization alone.

With developing of maths sense, your child will have a better understanding and an appreciation for maths. Visit our Carlingford centre for a free assessment and allow us to unlock your child’s potential.