rote memorization has been unfairly devalued these last two decades or so.
As an engineer, I am IMMENSELY grateful I had a crusty old third grade teacher that thought it not only necessary but essential that we get the multiplication table imprinted on our brains.
He was ingenious about this. Once a week, he would pass out a worksheet. 10x10. Each cell had a different product (3x4, maybe. 5x6. 9x8. All permutations of the decimal multiplication table.)
He made it very clear - you will flunk if you can’t manage to complete a full worksheet within five minutes by the end of the year. He started the first week of class - try this, then you need to get better.
If you can complete an entire sheet, try 2 sheets within 5 minutes. Then 3. Then as many as you can do. Every week, there’s a prize (usually was a piece of candy) for every sheet beyond what you could do for the last week, plus the person with the most (corrected for correct answers) gets to be first in line to go to lunch.
Worked like a fucking charm. We all felt like competing. I remember my best friend and I working like madmen(children?) to beat each other. And to this day I can still spit out any product of (1-9)x(1-9) without even a thought. Very helpful as an engineer.
I just wish my teacher had extended it to (1-12)x(1-12).