Tag Archives: education

#MathsRocks Round Up! 28/05/18

It’s the holidays!! Hope you all have a nice, relaxing break planned – or nothing planned at all! Either way, read on for some relaxing Maths ideas which will engage your learners and make Maths rock!

1. Classic Top Trumps – F/D/P

Last time, we shared a great entry by @misslkfidler where the children learnt about fraction, decimal and percentage equivalents using the game ‘Go Fish’. This week, another way to practise and learn essential maths facts, like these equivalences. Top Trumps is a classroom classic and this twist on the Top Trumps with fractions, decimals and percentages is a great idea!

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2. Maths4Everyone!!

This is a great shout by @crisp_aholic! Thousands of FREE maths resources  from @Maths4Everyone. The link is here: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/Maths4Everyone
Don’t really have much more to say on that – just click and download.

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3. Conversion Chart

And finally, a great visual support shared by @crisp_aholic:

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Conversion of metric units can cause great confusion. Some sort of visual support initially will support learning in the class. Of course they will not be able to use these beyond the classroom but any amount of support and visualisation will help.

That’s your lot for this week! Have a wonderful break and good luck for Summer 2!

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#MathsRocks Round Up! 14/05/18

Hope all of you are enjoying another exciting week. Of course, for those Year 6 teachers of us you will be having a ‘testing’ week but I’m hoping your first day at the SATs with the children has been a positive experience! Enjoy losing yourself in the wonderful Maths ideas and problems!

1. Which One Doesn’t Belong?

Want a reasoning resource with a difference? http://wodb.ca/ gives you that!
There is a big push towards developing children’s reasoning, including giving problems that have been solved slightly incorrectly and you have to find the error. Well, this website is different. It presents different sets of numbers, shapes and other objects. Children are required to select one of the options and reason why that one doesn’t belong. Simple right 🙂 but effective. Thank you to @Mister_Hubbard for sharing!

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2. “Go Fish!”

I loved this idea by @misslkfidler. Great idea to use for fraction/decimal/percentage equivalence but this could work for a number of concepts also – such as ratios, types of shapes and so on. Here’s the picture…

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3. Maths Starter for a Day

@7puzzle shared this idea which was brought to #MathsRocks attention by @MrBramley25. One day this can be a quick problem to get brains into gear:

Your task is to arrive at the target answer of 18 by using each of the four numbers 2, 6, 7, and 10 exactly once each and with + – × ÷ available.

Another great idea from this share is where you use the digits in the date (such as 1, 4, 0, 5, 2, 0, 1 and 8 from today) and try to get the closest to 100 using the four operations.

Enjoy the rest of your week – share on #MathsRocks, and good luch for the rest of this SATs week.!

Daily Whole Class Feedback Mark Two by @Mroberts90Matt

So, workload. It’s been shown to be quite high on the agenda by the DfE, Ofsted, Parliament and so on. Among the problem areas – marking has been highlighted. I previously posted a blog about whole class feedback which significantly cut back on the amount I was writing in children’s books and increased the engagement with the feedback. Find it here.

I have been using the method in the blog now for almost four years and would recommend it to anyone. What I have found is hours of freed up time to use to plan more quality interventions and next steps with the feedback I give to the children.

However, I have found something which may be even quicker (at least, in the week I have begun trialling it, when it used to take 20mins-30mins to mark a set of Maths books it now takes ~10-mins-15mins! To be honest, this web page explains it very well so I will leave it to do most of the explaining as I am considering my work-life balance 😉

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It is well worth considering though – once again, my time has been freed even more and I have found (initially anyway) to have a much bigger impact on the children’s understanding through more regular, consistent verbal feedback. There have been a number of moments working with specific targeted children where they have had ‘a-ha’ moments because of the way this feedback approach enables the class to be moved forward with minimal effort from the teacher so they can plan an effective feedback time at the start of the next lesson.

#MathsRocks Round Up! 30/04/18

Here we are a couple of weeks into the new term! Hope all is going well! You have a wonderful Bank Holiday to look forward to next week also so it is all looking rosy :). Now, here is your regular dose of #MathsRocks ideas and problems to try out in the classroom.

1. Maths Bags for Home

This idea hits home (quite literally) for me. I have a 5 year old son and he is struggling with his Maths. One of the problems we have as a young family with two young children is finding the time to gather (and keep together) quality resources. @nurserycrookfur have shared a great Maths set that they send home which was shared by @CrookfurPC.

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This is just one example of a great idea which I’m sure many schools are doing but it’s a classic worth sharing. In Year 6 we do something similar but with more appropriate material – revision packs, times tables…some homes may not use them but I’m sure many would appreciate it.

2. More CPA examples

Another great share by @crisp_aholic. The concrete-pictorial-abstract (CPA) is very much a focus now in general maths education, particularly those with a mastery approach. As such, it is always great to see practical ideas, like this one:

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One great suggestion with this idea is asking children to come and draw their own examples and there you have fantastic discussion potential just from that exercise.

3. Dojo Problem

And finally, as we like on #MathsRocks, a little problem for you to try. Many of you will have heard of @classdojo and they make an appearance with this great problem shared by @busyteacher247. Not much explanation is needed – just have a go and share it with your class:

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Have a great couple of weeks! Don’t forget to share your Maths ideas and suggestions on the #MathsRocks hashtag!

Oh and finally, we couldn’t let this one go without a mention by @Miss_B35, shared by @crisp_aholic…

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#MathsRocks Round Up! 16/04/18

Hello all!! Here it is again – your fortnightly boost of Maths teaching ideas and suggestions! Everyone will be back at school by now – hope Summer 1 has had an excellent start! Here is this week’s ideas:

1. Food Maths!

I love food! I love Maths. Check out this wonderful idea by @J0H00K and shared by @Mister_Hubbard:

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Maths is everywhere around us. The children sometimes do not recognise this and just how much Maths has an impact on them – even the food they eat! It would be great to see any more Food Arrays or just #FoodMaths in general that you see. Here is mine:

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2. KS2 teaching Early Years

A great entry from @grove_road was shared. They had a #mathsrocks day!! Exciting or what!?? Would love to hear what else they did that day! Anyway, they shared a wonderful idea where their KS2 children went to the Early Years to support the younger children in creating brilliant number lines.

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What I love about the idea of older children teaching others is their depth of understanding MUST be on point. Some training will be required but when they then go to try and teach others with a weaker knowledge they will inevitably be asked questions – and they will need to answer. However, they will quickly learn they have to be clear with their explanations…

3. The Golden Cube Problem

We like to finish with a problem for you to try in the classroom. This one, shared by @Mroberts90Matt, is aimed mainly at Year 6’s who are grasping the concept of volume. This gets them to think about the number of cubes in each layer, the actual volume and a practical context where the deconstruct a 3D object. That’s enough from me – have a go yourself!

We hope you find at least one of these ideas or challenges useful – try them out! Even better, if you have another idea you have tried in your classroom, please share with the #MathsRocks hashtag so others can benefit!

#MathsRocks Round Up! 02/04/18

It’s Easter Break! What a great time to find out some more Maths ideas and creative resources to get ready for Spring 2! Read on for some excellent, innovative things to try in your classroom!

1. Academy Enterprise Trust (AET) Schemes of Learning

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A few people worked together in discussion to bring this to #MathsRocks attention. @LeanneShawAHS asked the question of what resources are out there to support her very weak Year 7 group in Maths – working at KS1 ability. @SchoolLeader3 directed a response towards @AETmaths who have produced a very meaty, detailed set of Maths plans and discussion points. This collection of schemes of work are extremely useful! There is a lot to digest which will enhance your Mathematics teaching. I think it can sometimes be a little TOO much to follow and would use it in conjunction with another scheme, such as White Rose, but this would be an invaluable resource to use.
Let us know what you think – see the link here: https://sites.google.com/aetinet.org/curriculum/home-toolkit/curriculum?authuser=0

2. NCETM Primary Mastery PD Materials

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The NCETM have been developing a collection of PD materials to support teachers in delivering a mastery curriculum. They are currently up to having completed Year 1 and part of Year 2 for ‘Number, Addition and Subtraction’ and that has taken since September 2017 so it will take some time to complete. However, they are excellent to share with teachers teaching any part of the Maths Curriculum. There are videos, presentations and pdfs to break down each point so each practitioner should come away enabled to teach fundamental concepts more confidently and efficiently. The link is here: https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/50640

3. Goldbach’s Conjecture

@inspiringmaths shared this great problem for your class to discuss.

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Credit goes to @MrBramley25 for sharing this with #MathsRocks. And now you get to try it! Share it with your class and see what discussions ensue!

Don’t forget to share future Maths resources, ideas, problems…whatever Primary Maths with the #MathsRocks hashtag!

READ THE QUESTION by @Mroberts90Matt

A tweet this week (and every practice paper we attempt in Year 6) remind me of a well-known, frustrating and exasperating conundrum all Year 6 teachers face often.

READ THE QUESTION!!

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I seem to spout the same sentence individually, in a group and in whole class discussion every week. I have even said it and heard it said in a couple of staff meetings. I have also muttered it to myself when I have made the same mistake. It seems this pandemic is a global problem, no matter the ability, progress, cultural background or age of the person. But why does this happen.

The Documented Problem of Reading the Question

‘Underline key words’

It is a researched fact that in exams and tests one of the biggest issues that occurs is that students, from primary all the way up to university level, often trip with reading the actual question.

When revising, students often rehearse answers in their head. says Roy Jackson, course leader in religion, philosophy and ethics at the University of Gloucestershire. “Although we don’t deliberately intend to catch them out in exams, we do set questions that requires them to think and reflect under timed conditions. But instead students will often pick up key words in the question and write out a rehearsed response.”

In education we are obsessed with key vocabulary, and rightly so. Learning, understanding and categorising key language can underpin a lot of key concepts and skills in many, if not all, subject areas. Angle, adjective, hypothesis, artery, evidence, source, hemisphere, continent, analyse, evaluate, strokes, pivot, endurance…we throw all sorts of weird and frankly wonderful words at out learners to assist them in becoming more proficient in each of these subject areas. The grasp of key words is important in this endeavour. However, this fascination over key language seems to permeate into exam ‘practice’. This may help…but is it also a hindrance?

Many primary and Maths teachers will be aware of the acronym ‘RUCSAC’. I’m calling it out. I know many others have cast this aside for many reason, however I’m accusing this seemingly helpful skill of causing more problems in actually understanding the question.

I’ve seen the ‘U’ stand for one of two things – Understand or Underline. Understand: if I could get children to understand questions by just telling them to ‘Understand’ I would make a fortune. ‘Underline’ seems a bit more helpful but even this can cause problems…

Take this question for example: ‘I am going to share 3 boxes of chocolates between 5 friends. There are 30 chocolates in each box. How many chocolates are there to share?’ On the surface a very straightforward question.

However, as we know in Year 2, 6 and other high-stakes exam years, a lot of time is spent practising tests. If a child is trained to ‘underline’ key vocabulary and use THAT to identify the next stage (C – Choose operation) then they may misread the question. The higher attainers and rapid graspers (whatever phrase you’re using these days) will contextualise the problem and realise they need to multiply 3 by 30. However, the lower attainers and some middle attainers who are clinging on, will follow the strategy as they have been taught and identify one word – ‘share’. Now, all the followers of the RUCSAC strategy will know ‘share’ means one thing – divide. If children are taught to look for key words and phrases and to follow a strict guideline of how to solve, they will become stuck. They haven’t read the question properly and make the mistake.

Short-term Reliance

The ‘cramming before examming’ culture in academic exam years is also geared toward short-term memory. Scientific American says:

“Memories like what you had for dinner are stored in visual short-term memory—particularly, in a kind of short-term memory often called “visual working memory.” Visual working memory is where visual images are temporarily stored while your mind works away at other tasks—like a whiteboard on which things are briefly written and then wiped away.”

We teach children mnemonics, quick tricks and rehearsed answers to help them gain procedural understanding. However, in teaching this way, whilst we may gain lots of marks on some papers, that understanding is extremely limited. Conceptual understanding, the kind of understanding that enables children to see the bigger picture of a question, is lacking. This means they will read a question and struggle to contextualise it. No wonder they don’t ‘read the question properly’! They can read it but their short-term memory is trained to look for the procedure to answer the question.

Take 1/3 x 5/7. Every child in my Year 6 class would tell you the answer is 5/21. What does that ACUTALLY mean?

However, give them this question: “3/4 of a pan of brownies was sitting on the counter. You decided to eat 1/3 of the brownies in the pan. How much of the whole pan of brownies did you eat?” and see the confusion settle in…

And we wonder after a solid couple of terms on this method at least why there are drops in progress or attainment in Year 3 and 7…

The Solution?

A solution is worth searching for. Children may lose marks and not attain their potential not through a lack of understanding but just simply not having processed the question, or even their own working carefully. I have seen a child not achieve a Level 5 and then in later years miss out on Expected by one mark, both because they added decimals perfectly in their working but then forgot to include the decimal in their answer!!

Unfortunately I have no better solution to this problem of reading the question properly other than quality first teaching (or whatever phrase you use for that). I am also a hypocrite wilst saying this. Whilst I am now trying to help children understand the concept properly first more so now before showing them the ‘trick’ – I am still reverting back to little tips and tricks as we get ever closer to the SATs.

One thing I have done though which does open the children’s eyes a little bit to tackling this issue is this document which I found a few years ago which I share with you. Try it yourself…just read the question carefully 😉 (Answer at the bottom of the page so…spoilers down there if you want to try it yourself)!

It’s best if you get all children to promise to only say what they have to from the sheet, no helping or speaking to each other…

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If you haven’t gathered, the children who read the sheet correctly will end up watching their classmates with smugness complete the ridiculous list of 19 or so challenges on this sheet until they realise they mistake at the end. Everyone else will look daft and you will have to control your desire to chuckle as one by one they say their name and eventually stand up and declare proudly ‘I HAVE FINISHED’…and then look in shock at the final sentences. Hopefully the ones who are fooled will look slyly at you at the end and keep quiet and enjoy watching the rest of their classmates fall into the same trap.

In three years of teaching Year 6…no one has completed it properly…let me know how it goes with you. DM me @Mroberts90Matt if you want this sheet on a Word document.

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#MathsRocks Round Up! 05/03/18

We have finally entered the month of March and so begins the eventual march to the first day of Spring! So excited! Whilst you wait for the light to return to your evenings, feast your eyes on these wonderful Maths ideas and suggestions.

1. Cracking Concrete Collection

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Isn’t this beautiful? I saw this and was immediately impressed. As teachers we have to always be finding ways to reinforce mathematical concepts for children. This great collection shared by @MrJ_Primary provides most manipulatives that children need to access in order to explore many maths concepts. He feels that it will support the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach in his school? Do you see anything missing? Anything worth adding or taking away from the box? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated on #MathsRocks!

 

2. Enter Vocabulary Ninja!

Many tweechers will be familiar with @VocabularyNinja and their work! Our vocabulary work has developed with their readily available, adventurous words that are put into a ready made context. Well, the excellence is spreading to other subjects. There have been a number of topic based vocabulary lists produced – and now Maths has been given the ninja treatment!

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If you want to have a look for yourself then click this link: https://www.vocabularyninja.co.uk/sats-facts.html

For £3.49 you receive a 10 sheet multi-pack which are crammed with all mathematical knowledge they will need for the SATs to recall. There are spaces for them to fill blanks in to engage with the content and this pack will be an extremely useful revision tool. Take a look!

3. Clocking Off Time…

As always at #MathsRocks we like to include one challenge that you can use with your class. This week the challenge has been given by @MissSDoherty and focuses on the digital clock. Children need to be familiar with the digital clock and the times that will appear on it. Here is the question:

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If you try this challenge in your class it would be great to hear the methods and approaches the children take to solve this problem.

Enjoy the beginning of March – one more #MathsRocks Round Up and then it’s the Easter holidays! Don’t wish it away – make a difference to one child’s day!

#MathsRocks Round Up! 19/02/18

Welcome back after another half term and here we are embarking on Spring 2! Lighter mornings, going home when it’s not dark – looking forward to summer. And of course another #MathsRocks round up! Let’s do this!

1. Number Day 2018!

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This great idea was brought up by @lea_forest_dht. Friday 2nd February was Number Day driven by the @NSPCC. It seems like a great idea where Maths activities can take centre stage, Maths can get everyone involved and even the odd dressing up event also. Unfortunately the day has passed but it may be worthwhile pencilling in to look this up December-time so the preparations can begin.

2. Gary Hall Resources

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Wondering where to begin resourcing lessons for Maths? @leah_moo highlighted a great website where every curriculum objective is linked to a number of potential sources or resources to use for Years 1-6. It’s very much worth bookmarking this on your laptop so that when you are planning you can quickly refer to this. Not only are there unique resources to use but there are the occasional links to other activities such as on nRich and NCETM so it will hopefully challenge all your learners as well! See the link below:

https://garyhall.org.uk/primary-maths-resources.php

3. Brutal Challenge!

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And finally, here at #MathsRocks the majority of things we share are great resource ideas or ways to enhance your mathematics teaching in the classroom. However we occasionally like to give you a challenge to solve yourself and this time we have one from @Mister_Hubbard which (I’ll be honest with you) will take some time and patience for you to solve. He has also provided a solution which I will post at the bottom of this #MathsRocks Round Up…happy number crunching!

Please don’t forget to share any great Maths ideas, resources, displays, lessons, manipulatives, challenges…and so on to #MathsRocks  on Twitter. There are more and more items being shared and it’s really appreciated! Please share the @MathsRocks_2 handle as well so more can join the Maths fun!

 

(PS Here is the solution to @Mister_Hubbard’s problem)

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Multiplication Tables Check: A Balanced Argument by @Mroberts90Matt

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So it was Valentines Day yesterday, and the DfE celebrated this in the only way they could: let’s announce updates on the Multiplication Tables Check and teacher assessment frameworks for this year and beyond. We love you primary teachers everywhere! What happened next was, what could only be described as a cacophony of opinions, debates and discussions (amongst other things) about this issues amongst primary teachers, secondary teachers, school leaders, education consultants, parents, mathematicians and poets (thank you Michael Rosen)!

The first thing that came to my mind was this: haven’t we known about this since at least September 2017? Certainly a times tables check of some form has been bandied about since 2014 when I started teaching and maybe before as my Maths Coordinator at the time, when we were talking Maths-y stuff, mentioned it was in discussion. Of course, three recent changes in Education Secretary, two General Elections and one whopper or a Brexit vote in around 3 years have set a bit of a stall in the coming forth of this initiative I think. Not to mention this coming alongside the implementation of a new Curriculum, bringing with it #SATsShambles, a leakage of a KS1 Paper and the ineffective, defunct form of a writing assessment which does not allow an accurate picture of children’s writing nationally. A Multiplication Tables Check hasn’t really been top of the list of priorities…but it seems the finer details may have been finalised – hence the update yesterday. But this is what surprised me – yesterday was just that, and UPDATE. So why were so many teachers and school leaders shocked, surprised (and some offended) by this announcement? My school’s staff certainly have known about this incoming assessment since September at least. Anyway, whatever the reason, that was the state of Edu-Twitter yesterday – almost every single tweet I saw being about the MTC.

As I sat back and trawled through the torrent of view and opinions, almost like a war of words, I couldn’t help making a few points and insights myself. The reality was, and still is, I’m very mixed on this news. There are clear arguments for and against this update. And this is what you are reading now (if you’ve made it this far in my ramblings). Read on for an unbiased view at the arguments either side of this debate. As I like playing  Devil’s Advocate, I will make a point against each of them.

For the Multiplication Tables Check

1. This will improve children’s knowledge of times tables

Before you call out ‘this is probably the worst reason for the MTC’ I am very aware of this. I’m just using Nick Gibb’s argument at the beginning of this. And yes, the counter-argument is that if high-stakes testing is the answer to improve knowledge and skills, then why don’t we do more? Let’s bring back the Science SATs tests because this will ‘improve Science knowledge and skills’ or maybe a PE Check because we know a 2nd session of the subject (which has been recommended) is often lost in a packed curriculum so a PE Check will ensure it is done.

All educators know that a one-time, high-stakes test does not improve outcomes. It is the quality teaching and support that does this.

2. This will bring times tables up as a priority – only a good thing

I’ve read this phrase ‘only a good thing’ a lot over the past 36 hours. If the Brexiteers’ slogan became ‘£350 million for the NHS’ – this phrase ‘can only be a good thing’ would be slapped onto the pro-MTC bus. I am a Year 6 teacher. I spend agonising hours over children who reach me in Year 6 and do not know their times tables. The argument here is that if there is a MTC on this skill, then teachers in lower years will be encouraged to make quality teaching of this skill a priority. No one is saying they aren’t doing their job – they just need more of a focus on this basic skill right?

Unfortunately there are two issues with this argument for me. The first is that to say this is actually insinuating that Year 2-4 are not doing their job properly. If I were to be given a ‘check’ in a monitoring situation, say a book look, in challenging the more able – I have been given this ‘priority’ because I need to improve that aspect of my teaching. Now of course, as a teaching profession we should be open to suggestions and guidance on what we can improve on, but sticking a formal assessment in to me is counter-productive. What I would prefer is guidance from my school leader on how to improve my ability to challenge the more able, not that I will now have it as a priority and face a high-stakes assessment on it in a year or so. The second issue is that every school I’ve walked into already make teaching and practising times tables a priority. Does your school not place importance on this vital Maths skill? If not and it will take a high-stakes assessment to make your school do so then that is concerning…

3. Having a MTC will identify which children need more support

As a classroom teacher in primary, we are immersed in knowing, planning for, teaching and assessing our children 90% of our school’s opening hours. Are some people really insinuating that a cold, online-based assessment of their times tables knowledge will tell me which children need support on their tables more than my daily classroom practice?

The one of the biggest responses to this was that ‘I don’t know what this MTC will tell me that I don’t already know.’ As soon as this is voiced by numerous teachers, you have to question what is the purpose of the assessment? Is it to support children’s learning or hold schools to account with data? If it is not the former, should our precious funding and resources go towards this or some other initiative that will actually be required and enhance children’s education, rather than inform teachers on which children need for support on times tables knowledge (something which they already know).

4. If schools are not ensuring children know their times tables, this will make sure they do

This is similar to point 2 but has a much more sinister tone about it. We will make sure you as a school create tables-knowing children or else we’ll have the evidence to prove you don’t. This moves from simply knowing which children need support on tables and turns it into ‘What are you doing extra about it?’

There are many Year 3-4 practitioners I know (a brilliant bunch in my school) who do an excellent job trying to develop children’s times tables. Implementing a Tables Check to me, if I were in their position, would be a signal from the DfE that I am not doing my job well enough when I am already stretched and doing everything I can in my job. I know, with inevitable pressure from school leaders because they will have pressure from higher up, that I will be followed up on and pushed to try harder. The answer to ‘How do we solve the teaching shortage crisis?’ is not ‘Well, one thing we do will make very well sure the kids they teach are being taught their times tables properly’. I am concerned this decision will lead to the loss of more teachers. It certainly doesn’t go about making teaching a more attractive profession to enter…

Against the Multiplication Tables Check

1. This will place pressure on the children at only 8-9 years old

Let’s be frank here. It is a 5 minute, online times table test. Is your school implementing some form of times tables test/challenge/game/competition/extravaganza/parade/(…I could go on) on at least a weekly basis? As a Maths Coordinator I know I would want my school to be. We do in fact – Times Tables Rock Stars is our vehicle which is great fun. However, this means in my Year 6 class we are doing a total of 9 minutes of times table each week! That’s almost double of what’s being suggested in this MTC! Goodness me – our children begin using TT Rock Stars towards the last term of Year 2! If we give them the minimum of 9 minutes of times tables challenges a week from Summer Term of Year 3, by the end of Year 4 they will have engaged in…approximately 756 minutes of times tables challenges (let’s be honest, a glorified practice test) over the 7 terms between Summer Year 2 and End of Year 4. Over 12 hours of tables challenges in just over two years of school – aren’t Times Tables Rock Stars and I monsters??

As soon as we receive guidance on how to administer these tests I’m looking for the statement that it must be done in silence. If not, I know I’m going to seriously consider sticking on ‘Living on a Prayer’ in the background and tell them to rock this TTRS challenge which just looks different on the computer screen! Pressure, come on! As a general rule tests are pressured, but the nature of this MTC means it actually will not deviate from most classroom practice at all, unlike most other assessment in the suite of lovely tests we have before us. And I think that is what most are failing to look past if they use this argument.

2. Children are over-tested as it is

As true as this is, I think again we are looking at a small mote in the beam that is crushing us. We, as a general profession, tend to hear the news the government are enforcing their control of the teaching profession and immediately groan as we are used to doing – and with good reason. As @MichaelT1979 pointed out later in the day, we are all so focused over a Tables Check that really will only take 5 minutes on a computer and how this damages children in the long run, when they also announced – on the same day ‘coincidentally’ – that the writing framework as we have it, will continue for the foreseeable future. There are much bigger issues in how we assess children currently than this 5 minute MTC which can easily replace one of the times tables games that children should be engaging in on a daily basis anyway.

It could be argued ‘Fair enough, but why add another assessment when children are over-assessed anyway?’ The truth is I don’t think, if it’s done the right way, children will see this in the same way as the KS2 SATs or the KS1 SATs. The challenge will be for schools not to turn this into a hoop-jumping exercise but rather a culmination in times tables learning. This is the best way to implement a check and identification of children who need times tables support. Why have they done it like this? I think in a big way it was the fact they took consultation from over 1,000 educators on how and in what school year it should be implemented. Fortunately they listened. Let’s hope they listen further to the educational professionals.

3. Don’t we already have times tables tested – in the KS2 Maths?

Again, very true. Elements of times tables knowledge and application are indeed assessed two years later in the end of KS2 assessments. However, every Year 6 teacher knows that if children arrive at this assessment with a targeted focus on knowing their times tables then this will only be a benefit. The fact is that the children will never have a question like ‘6×6=__’ in the KS2 SATs (except for maybe one in the Arithmetic Test). They are more likely to encounter something like ’60×6=___’ or ‘__x60=3600’ along with the multitude of problems they will need to solve which within them will require a quick recall of tables in order to solve effectively.

Children are not, in the current framework, given an opportunity to clearly demonstrate their basic times tables knowledge so that it can be followed up on. Yes, again the argument cries ‘But I know this already about my class’ to which my answer may be ‘…so what’s the problem?’ The root of the issue is not that this MTC will not tell us what we already know. There are bigger issues at play…

4. Teachers pressure is already at boiling point – won’t this increase the pressure?

The DfE have again taken note of over 1,000 teachers views which (should) mean this will not be an issue. They have been very clear that individual school’s results will not be published. This will avoid a MLT (Multiplication League Table – if there were I’m sure that acronym would catch on!). Although, to be fair, not to have data published which they can’t use in some tracking form, Local Authority data will be published.

I suppose the argument against this concern is that, in the way it’s been proposed, any concerns about chasing up individual schools, therefore having that data used by Ofsted for judgements or by school leaders for PRP, should not be a concern. Of course, no external data should be used for PRP but I have heard the horror stories of Y6 teachers needing to have a certain % reach ARE% or they have not met their Performance Management targets…this issue is not caused by the assessments but in the way leaders manage pressure on staff. Nick Gibb has also tried to reassure schools in saying the data “will not be used by Ofsted and others to force changes in schools.” The MTC itself will not cause more pressure on school staff. In order to ensure potential pressure isn’t then projected by school leaders, the DfE will need to manage  the situation carefully to ensure this is not felt as if leaders have to push results up…something which unfortunately hasn’t worked well thus far.

My Verdict

I do not see the MTC as an issue. I recognise it may make tables learning more of a priority and it may well encourage more teachers to think more carefully about how effectively they are teaching and enabling practice of times tables. I think it will have an impact on children’s times tables knowledge.

I do have an issue with the fact that this has been implemented at this stage when are much bigger issues at play in education. I would LOVE to know how much this MTC is costing the DfE. I imagine the number goes into the millions but that is a very uneducated, uninformed figure. If this is the case why not either provide some sort of times tables programme which all schools can use consistently to practice times tables effectively and has regular ‘checks’ which schools can analyse and work on? If we are serious about improving times tables knowledge (and it MUST improve) then provide support and enhance the teaching, don’t just coldly assess and expect an already struggling profession to pick up the workload without help. Someone actually suggested doing a bumper deal with TTRS – not a bad idea that 😉

I do not think the MTC will cause stress to children. The schools will if they implement it poorly. That’s their problem.

I do have an issue with the MTC if it becomes ‘a stick to beat schools with’ (another phrase I’ve heard a lot in the past 36 hours)! We have been given assurances Ofsted will not use it. If they try to I have the article from Nick Gibb himself saying they won’t (see here). However, the way it has been set up and announced, schools shouldn’t have to worry about this.

As such, I’m up for it in principle. I just wish they’d made better use of the funding to be more supportive, or even tackled the bigger issues at play such as the fact we are having a teacher shortage crisis and nothing has been done about that (oh, except make a QTS Entrance Test more accessible…yeah…)…

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