All children in England will need to know up to their 12 times table when they leave primary school under plans announced by the education secretary.
And Nicky Morgan told the Sunday Times pupils aged 11 should know correct punctuation, spelling and grammar.
She promised a future Tory government would extend schemes to send "superheads" in to failing schools.
"Getting English and maths right has to be at the core of our education system," she told the BBC.
"It is an outrage that, under the last government, one in three of our young people was unable to read, write and add up properly," she told BBC 1's Andrew Marr show.
"We have to be ambitious for our young people. If you don't get it right at primary, then it becomes much harder for children to catch up at secondary school."
Mrs Morgan wants England to be in the top five in the world for English and maths by 2020. It is currently 23rd.
She also aims to see the country ranked as top of the European league tables by the same year if the Conservative Party win the general election.
Mrs Morgan wrote in the Sunday Times: "This aim is unapologetically ambitious. The speed with which we slid down international league tables under the previous government is one of the starkest examples of their failure.
"Returning us to our rightful place will be a symbol of our success. To achieve this, we will launch a war on illiteracy and innumeracy."
The Sunday Times says that as part of the proposed measures, children would have to pass tests in long division and multiplication before they started secondary school.
Key Stage Two tests already include questions on times tables and long division but pupils are not required to answer them correctly.
Mrs Morgan said: "We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart, to perform long division and complex multiplication and to be able to read a novel.
"They should be able to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar.
"Some will say this is an old-fashioned view, but I say that giving every child the chance to master the basics and succeed in life is a fundamental duty of any government.
"This government won't tolerate failure in any school. The future of our children is too important for that," she added.
The paper says that under the party's plans schools that fail to get every pupil to pass the times tables and writing test for two years running will face being taken over by new leadership teams and be forced to become academies.
It also says there are also plans to encourage heads of departments in good schools to temporarily swap jobs with counterparts in bad schools.
Credit : BBC