Schools Minister Nick Gibb spoke at the beginning of the month at Elmhurst Primary School on the importance of the building blocks in numeracy. The first half of the talk set the scene in terms of relatively poor PISA results and then highlighting some areas of the UK where there are excellent results.
It was the latter half of the speech which was interesting to us at Flurrish, as Nick focused upon the learning of number facts, noting the government's move to introduce computerised testing of test Year 6 pupils. He began by introducing some of the psychology research that supports this cognitive approach and then followed it up with controlled trials testing to see the impact this had. One of Nick's points particularly resonated:
"Memorising sums and times tables is simply an important gateway for achieving the far more valuable prize of conceptual understanding in mathematics. When your working memory is freed of having to make simple calculations, it can think more fully about the conceptual underpinnings of a problem. As the American cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has written, 'This automatic retrieval of basic math facts is critical to solving complex problems, because complex problems have simpler problems embedded in them.'"
And we couldn't agree more. Nick also (although not by name) refers to Jo Boaler's recent comments to ban times table testing (our emphasis). However as we noted earlier
"It is not terrible to remember maths facts; what is terrible is sending kids away to memorise them and giving them tests on them which will set up this maths anxiety."
It isn't times table per se that are her problem, but bad teaching and testing that emphasises anxiety.
Which brings us back to what we do at Flurrish. Number.fy is NOT intended to replace teachers - learning times tables needs good teachers that can build this learning into their day and, crucially, teach to the gaps. What Number.fy does offer is:
1.Learning in the classroom
2. MASSIVE practice. Nowhere else will you get EACH PUPIL in a year 2 class to answer 10,000 questions over the course of a school year on 10 minutes a day, where 65% then master their 1-12x tables.
3. It's all automatically marked and, importantly, presented in an easy to digest manner allowing teachers to rapidly identify strengths and weaknesses.
BONUS: probably the most effective method to undertake whole school testing/screening. This allows SLT to feed back to governors (and Ofsted) demonstrating impact.
EXTRA BONUS: the weekly summary email enables you to see at a glance which classes are playing and which aren't.