One area of development that I am responsible for is the progress and attainment in Numeracy. One of our targets was to improve the rapid recall of basic number skills, including multiplication and division facts, across the school. This area of development was highlighted during drop-ins and through informal assessment by teachers.
Many children were able to use number skills to complement written methods, however, the speed and accuracy at which written methods could be completed were being hindered by inaccuracies in more advanced multiplication and division facts and lack of rapid, or instant recall.
As a maths team we decided that regular rehearsal of rapid mental calculation was required in order for accelerated progress to be made, as a result of research and conversations with other members of the Deal Learning Alliance, we decided to introduce ‘Big Maths’. The structures and easy to use scheme sets high but differentiable targets for the children and ensures that regular immersion in appropriately challenging mental calculation can occur. Both pupils and parents responded well to the introduction of ‘Big Maths’.
We also wanted to ensure that the understanding of times tables facts, including the inverse was deeply embedded. Ensuring that the children knew the facts and making sure this could be assessed fairly across classes and year groups was of importance. We also wanted to have a significant reward for the children to aspire to earn.
The children could already achieve a ‘Pen Licence’ for neat handwriting and presentation to earn their handwriting pen. They responded well to the introduction of this reward, especially as they received a licence card, similar to a driving licence, and a badge that can be worn to show their achievement. The badges proved to be very popular with the children.
In 2013, I had created a set of times table quizzes to be used across our school. These were designed to be used by an adult, enabling us to use parent volunteers to conduct the small sessions the tables quizzes took up. This alleviated the extra workload that would have been felt by either the teacher or the teaching assistant, whilst still ensuring that the system was fair and challenging.
These were shared with the whole school in 2013-2014, however, the public status of times table knowledge within the school, for children at least was still not easily visible. The introduction of an award or prize, much like the pen licence was then implemented, this raised the profile of times tables across the school. Certificates and badges are used as a reward for three different stages.
Progression to the next family of times tables was achieved by scoring three ten out of ten results. Quizzes were scheduled to take place once a week and the children were very keen to take their quizzes.
We arranged the time stables quizzes into clubs’, the 2, 5 & 10 make the 17 Club. Mastery of the 17 club leads to the learning of the 3, 4 and 8 times table facts which combine to make the 32 Club. Once the 32 Club badge has been earned the children can then learn their 6, 7, 9, 11 and 12 times tables facts; these combine with the previous badges to form the 77 Club.
Inheriting a class this year already brandishing their badges from last year has been great, we were able to quiz the children to ensure they had retained the facts learned last year and carry straight on from where they left off. It is also very entertaining firing questions at the children as you pass them in the corridor, and then reassuring when they prove they have a rapid recall.
I look forward to seeing lots of the badges throughout the school and seeing the impact of consolidated understanding of times tables underpinning standard methods of calculation.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Adam Atkinson and published with kind permission. This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with website and policy changes.