Times tables have been a hot potato politically for a long time, there seems to be a slightly rose-tinted view that once upon a time every child in Britain learned them by heart and still remember every fact today. Yet clearly not, if the famous example of politicians such as Stephen Byers and George Osbourne are anything to go by then even the great and the mighty parliamentarians have a wobble now and then. Those halcyon days just did not exist; it has ever been true that some pupils find learning their tables harder than others – we can give you roomfuls of teachers, teaching assistants and parents from all walk of life who can bear testament to this, most of whom can name the fact that remained a blindspot. Last week Nick Gibb announced that there would after all be a times table test for Y6 pupils beginning in 2019. Inevitably this is likely to increase the emphasis on the learning of these facts – no bad thing as recall of these facts reduces the cognitive load enabling the focus of learning to be attended to, but it pays to be mindful that we build in meaningful learning sequences before we introduce the low stakes tests that allow teachers and pupils to identify gaps in fact recall and teach for them.
The following blog considers one such possible approach.
Kate Kellner-Dilks is a Primary Mathematics Adviser at Herts for Learning
In many of the schools I have the opportunity to visit and work with, the age old questions of multiplication facts comes up. Lots of schools have a ‘times tables challenge’ or variation of, which usually equates to some level of weekly testing. In my last blog ‘Are the boys really better at mathematics?’ I questioned whether multiplication facts (times tables) needed to be tested before they are learned, particularly against the clock, because of the anxiety you see in those pupils who don’t (yet) know them. These children often end up using inefficient strategies based on counting, to figure them out, rather than the intended memory recall. The test does not necessarily help build their memory recall and often, in my experience, reinforces their counting strategies, (a child said to me her ‘mind goes blank’, so she panics and counts up rather than using memory). Continue reading “When Mathematics Gets Political – Times Tables”