The Home Straight

As we approach half-term we are closing in on halfway through the year and whilst for some this might seem like a “glass half empty” scenario (another half to go!), we are fully aware that for those taking Key Stage 2 SATs, it really is very much the “home straight”. With the mathematics papers timetabled for Wednesday 10 May 2017, it’s only a few weeks after the summer term starts back up following the Easter break. Now that mocks are out of the way, staff are focusing upon targeting key gaps in knowledge for groups and individuals, practising taking tests and enabling the children to achieve the best possible results. Think of Usain Bolt easing ahead over a 200m race – he comes off the bend and has the 100m straight to go. He ups the gear, puts his head down and powers through to the finish.

Times tables obviously only forms a part of numeracy at KS2, but it is fundamental to rapid mental maths, accessing more complex manipulations of numbers and overall confidence. Pupils enter the realm of “can do”. So what have our classes actually been doing over this period? In terms of raw questions answered, these are the top 5 classes (all Year 6):

211904 (yes, that’s over 200k!), 144020, 121656, 117360, 113792

OK, but how many is that per pupil?

6836, 4801, 4055, 4347, 3924

Now, heck, that’s a lot of practice! The top class are nearing 7,000 questions (on average) for each pupil in their class, with what we’d consider a good class doing around 4,000. Now that sounds a lot – it is a lot!! But what does that equate to per day? Well, here are the figures (based upon 82 statutory school days up to last week):

83, 59, 49, 53, 48

Seriously! That is 50+ per day – pupils who know their 12x tables can do 20 questions in less than 1 minute. So, as a starter activity this is 10 minutes. Net result, 100,000+ questions answered by the time you get to mock SATs. This is such a strong motivator for the power of practice.

If you aren’t quite at the 100,000 question mark yet (and you can check exactly how many there are for your class on our results website simply by changing the date range) then you may well be doing some or all of the following already (and trying to avoid doing the Grannies and eggs thing!) over the next 61 days:

  • use the results website to 'download dataset' for your class and identify those pupils who do NOT yet know their times tables properly (e.g. are scoring less than 90% in random 20s). Ensure these pupils have specialist intervention by a teacher, HLTA or other mentor
  • Identify the 'tricky' times tables using the interactive results site or weekly summary headteacher reports. Get pupils to write them down – use black pen on a yellow post-it note (to aid memory recall) – then stick them around the classroom and home (by the toilet or bathroom mirror are prime places!)
  • Convince pupils that they have made real progress by showing them a few examples of class results and individual pupils’ results from the results website. Compare a week in September to a week now - reward them as appropriate, build confidence!
  • Make sure pupils use their mathematical agility by applying what they have learned. For example, tell them they can “buy one, get three free” - if they know 8 x 4 is 32, then the know 4 X 8 is 32, 32 divided by 8 is 4, 32 divided by 4 is 8. What a bargain!!
  • Issue certificates in assembly – "I know my times tables"
  • Have a mini competition at lunchtime to promote an ethos of rapid recall - give small prizes for the fastest and most accurate times tables/number bonds to 20 for the top 3 pupils
  • Loan devices out (with an agreement form) to pupils who may benefit from extra practise over the weekend or holidays - even if they cannot connect to wifi they can play in guest mode and so keep their daily practise going
  • Praise, praise and more praise - confidence is key to pupil success - cultivate a can do attitude. When a pupil says they can't do something - say "you can’t do it yet!!"

(with thanks to the staff at Caddington Village School!)