Mental multiplication

I am an Old Person and therefore had to rote-memorise multiplication tables up to 12×12 when I was at school.

How do people who aren’t in my bubble feel about this now?

In other words, if I have a core game mechanic that involves multiplying two small numbers, as it might be 3×8 or 7×9, is that going to be something that people regard as a great nuisance, or will it be no more hassle than adding up 3d6?

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I have a small amount of synesthesia when it comes to numbers and basic arithmetic operations. Some numbers have a distinct shape in my head and subtraction, multiplication, addition and division of those shapes also have shapes.

So, in my youth, I also was expected to memorize multiplication tables from 1-to-12. This is where my synesthesia started, I think… because I’m bad at rote memorization.

So, for my part, multiplying any single digit with any other single digit can be done faster than saying it out loud.


I think this is still a thing that is taught in schools…? I’m sure my husband’s children did this and they are both still school-aged.

I had to memorize the same tables. For some reason, 7x8 never stuck.

I have seen an rpg (or 2 or 3…) that use this type of multiplication, but I never played them and they didn’t seem to offer any benefit over your standard systems (roll-under, roll-and-add, roll for successes).

From a design perspective, what goals (besides novelty) just such a mechanism achieve?

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I don’t want to go into details until I know whether I’m going to use it. (Not that I’m worried about people Stealing My Precious Idea, but if I am going to use it I want to present it as part of an overall system.)

My primary aged children are learning the multiplication tables.

I can see it being a frustration for people with dyscalcula, however I don’t think that should stop you.


It would certainly give me pause, in it’s own right I’d be fine with it.

I would be more concerned about remembering these numbers if I had to do comparison between 2 or 3 options. I’d be reaching for a pen and paper rather than trying to memorise them.

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It would be very easy to include a table in the rule book or other materials. Or just a link to one, even.

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A number of responses.

  1. Children are asked to understand multiplication in a number of ways. Repeated addition is a good example, as is looking for patterns. (See most of the 11 times table.) Rote still gets taught. Government assessment is based on ‘Rapid Recall’ (Answer x questions in Y seconds.)

  2. Single digit multiplication puts you in the same group as scrabble, or monopoly in terms of maths complexity. It’s not a huge challenge, but is it needed.

  3. People who play board games are probably more likely to self identify as ‘confident” at maths, because of various dice mechanics?

  4. Most people hold in their pocket a device with enough calculating power for men to reach the moon.

  5. Anyone who has an issue with someone checking their maths on a calculator can go do one.Maths is hard, some people find it intimidating.


Additionally: most people carry a calculator with them everywhere they go

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If players have to use a calculating device, or a table, then it’s not a handy fast-moving game mechanic. (I’ve designed an RPG with a resolution table. It was the 1990s, we all did it.) That’s why I’m using “adding up 3d6” as a benchmark; if it’s going to meet more resistance than that, no matter how I personally feel about it, it’s out.


I think I’m happiest doing anything that isn’t in the 6-8 range. So 1-5 and 9-11 are the easiest to do rapidly.

I’m pretty decent at times tables and mental arithmetic but I don’t think it’s a universal skill.

I think if it relates to a skill which requires a bit of contemplation it might feel fun but if you have to do loads of them quickly it might be a bore.


If I’m completely honest, as an answer to this question (could this be part of a rapid resolution system?) I’m afraid my advice would be ‘it’s out’. It’s not intuitive or easy enough for enough people to be offputting. Personally I’m good at maths but not good at mental arithmetic, and it would give me slight pause to calculate out loud in front of a group of peers, especially if I thought they were all better at it than me, however kind about it they were. I don’t think I’m totally alone in this.


Single figures on both numbers, should not be a problem for multiplication, I prefer it to adding several numbers (like over half a dozen of them); if any of the numbers has double digits, there’s a lovely calculator on each smart phone under the sun these days.


Anything up to 12x12 would not be onerous, as long as I’m only doing it a couple times on my turn.


I’ve been playing buy word a lot on board game arena. That one would have only squaring and adding/subtracting but I’m really glad the computer does all of that maths. You sort of have this rhythm in the turn where you crunch for maybe two or three mins for getting a good word so to finish that and then do sums feels anticlimactic/timersome imo. Also it’s extremely satisfying to see numbers just shoot up by themselves.


As a child I resisted memorising multiplication tables (also, learning to write a legible cursive), producing a degree of exasperation in my Year-5 teacher that he still felt a trace of when I met him at a polling place thirty years later. Then, when I was twenty-one I took up playing the RPG ForeSight, which has a resolution system based on that in James Bond 007, except without a multiplication table taking up A5 of the character sheet. I quickly became and have since remained adept at two-digit by one-digit mental multiplication. It’s easy, and soon becomes reflexive.