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The Multiplication Tables Check for Y4 is coming to your school. Now is the time to review your learning strategies, says Steve Lomax...
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Former chancellor George Osborne, despite studying A-level maths, refused to answer 7 x 8 during a TV interview with primary children, and ex-PM David Cameron refused to answer times table questions on TV “just in case I get one wrong!”
This was around the time the DfE first announced their Multiplication Tables Check (MTC) for Y4 pupils.
In the DfE MTC framework it states that “the purpose of the MTC is to determine whether pupils can recall their times tables fluently, which is essential for future success in mathematics”.
While most wouldn’t disagree that pupils ‘knowing’ the times tables is important, assessing the rapid recall of only multiplication facts in an online test for example, 6 x 9 = _, will not achieve this ambition.
A counter argument is that being able to know and apply multiplicative facts, or ‘factor-factor-product’ relationships, such as 6-9-54, is essential to future success in mathematics.
If a Y4 pupil knows 6-9-54 then they will know many, many facts – multiplication, division, place value, fractions – not just one multiplication fact!
The CanDoMaths ‘If I know … then I also know’ FactorFactorProduct mat (included in the free resource download) can be adapted for other relationships such as 7/8/56.
The national curriculum states: “By the end of Y4, pupils should have memorised their multiplication tables up to and including the 12 multiplication table and show precision and fluency in their work.”
The DfE MTC assessment framework states that “it will help schools to identify pupils who have not yet mastered their times tables, so that additional support can be provided”.
Mastered the times tables – really? A pupil that knows the multiplicative relationships, and is able to use them to state related facts, has a ‘mastery’ – that is, a secure and deep understanding – and fluency – that is, accuracy, efficiency and flexibility – of the times tables.
I don’t think the same can be said for a pupil who can recall one isolated multiplication fact, however quickly.
Many schools are now thinking carefully about the amount, and efficient use, of curriculum time for mathematics and use a ‘TeachUpKeepUp’ structure to support both intelligent and deliberate practice: a shorter mathematics ‘Teach Up’ lesson (up to 45 minutes) to secure and deepen understanding of one small key learning point for all children plus an additional shorter ‘Keep Up’ Meeting (15 to 30 mins) to deliberately practise previous learning, arithmetical skills and/or immediate intervention.
Deliberate and purposeful practise of this skill is a perfect activity for a ‘Maths On Track’ meeting using a grid with different starting numbers, such as the one from Kangaroo Maths that randomly generates the starting numbers (included in the free resource download).
This also supports future work on multiplication and division in Upper KS2, for example written methods for division, when finding the multiples of the divisor is often the barrier to success:
If I know 3 x 7 = 21 then, by the commutative nature of multiplication, I also know 7 x 3 = 21.
Pupils creating a poster like this is a very empowering activity:
All of a sudden, all children are now empowered as they can remember 21 facts!
You can also download free versions (included in the free resource download).
Look out for part 2 next month.
Steve Lomax is the strategic mathematics lead of the Balcarras Teaching School, a nationally accredited NCETM professional development lead and teaching for mastery lead. He is the co-founder of Kangaroomaths and CanDoMaths. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxTheMaths.
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