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The Independent Online
The schools standards minister Stephen Byers yesterday called for children to learn their times tables by heart - then tripped up when asked to do a simple sum.

Mr Byers came to grief over his eight times tables during an interview on Radio Five Live. Asked by the presenter Eleanor Oldroyd the answer to eight times seven, he replied: "54".

But how did others deal with the thorny question of eight multiplied by seven?

The writer Alan Bleasdale answered 54. "I could have got anything but that one. This is terrible. I have such pride in my times tables. Nine nines are 81, eight times eight is 64. I really believe in rote teaching."

Michael Foot, the former Labour Party leader, answered 56. "I got 100 per cent on my school certificate for maths but I have great sympathy for those who are learning their times tables now."

The TV presenter Mariella Frostrup answered 54. "I left school the year before you were allowed to use calculators - and by the way I failed maths."

Jeffrey Archer answered 56: "I certainly do know my times tables, I was brought up the old-fashioned way. Stephen Byers should resign by lunchtime tomorrow."