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Reviewed by John Dabell
Writing maths tests is far from easy. If you’ve ever had a go at doing so, you’ll know that a whole gamut of factors interact to make good content. The context, choice of language, level of difficulty, how the paper matches the national curriculum – all these need to be considered when devising questions that are fit for purpose.
From May this year, all eligible children in maintained and specialist schools, academies and free schools must be assessed with new end-of-key-stage tests. The statutory assessment for mathematics is made up of two parts – arithmetic and reasoning. At KS2 children will sit three papers: Paper 1, devoted to arithmetic, and Papers 2 and 3, both of which are reasoning-based.
The arithmetic paper is made up of fixed response questions, where children give the correct answer to calculations that include long multiplication and division. This paper is designed to assess a child’s knowledge, understanding and application of mental maths.
Papers 2 and 3 include multiple choice, ‘true and false’ and constrained questions, such as drawing a shape or completing a table. There will also be less constrained questions, where children will be required explain their thinking. The reasoning papers are designed to assess a child’s ability to reason with, problem solve and apply mathematics. KS1 children are required to sit Paper 1 and Paper 2.
To help us address these changes, publishers have been busy producing materials that replicate what the new maths SATS will look like. Educational resources specialist Cornerstones has been busy too, creating tests that specifically mirror the style of the 2016 tests and are just the job for showing children what to expect. If I could, I’d give Cornerstones a Blue Peter badge, because I think they have made a superb job of creating these resources in every respect.
The Cornerstones Maths Tests are fully mapped to the new national curriculum programmes of study, and the tests cover impressive ground. In fact, all bases are covered. The diagnostic arithmetic tests covers number, calculations, fractions, decimals and percentages, and enable you to quickly and easily check progress with seven tests per year group. There is one baseline test and 6 half-termly tests, so you can assess progress at intervals during the year. These flexible tests will therefore admirably support classroom assessment and gap analysis. Cornerstones has also produced a set of higher order arithmetic tests, to help assess high-achieving children.
The reasoning papers are a set of termly diagnostic tests that cover number, ratio and proportion, algebra, measurement, geometry and statistics, and are broad and balanced in their coverage. They contain a mixture of contextualised questions and context-free questions, with a range of responses.
The question papers are not dissimilar to what you’ll have seen before, but what Cornerstones do exceedingly well is perfectly mirror the new style, pitch and level of challenge that children meet in the 2016 tests, making them excellent preparation resources for what’s coming.
In the unlikely event that you’re time-rich, you could potentially use old test papers from the last decade and do your own versions of the new-style test, but why bother? These are ready to go and have been written to a very high standard, making them a must-have. The guidance and marking notes are clear, detailed, helpful and very well written; they also match the SATS-style notes of past years.
With every purchase, Cornerstones will also supply an electronic attainment and gap analysis tool. What this whizzy tool does is give you individual analysis for every test, showing you where children have cracked it and where they might still need a leg-up.
Think about it – this means you can track with no real effort, whether children are working below, towards or at above age-related expectations. This makes target setting easier, as you can identify what needs to be done to help support a child’s knowledge and understanding. Reporting on children’s progress across a class and the whole school has never been easier. This piece of spreadsheet heaven even comes with a user’s guide, making it easy to set up and use.
If you do decide to buy these excellent resources, you’ll receive photocopier-ready hard copies of all the tests in ring binder folders. Price-wise, you can buy the tests in a number of packages, so it is worth visiting the website to find out more, but if you bought the complete Y1-6 pack alongside Papers 1,2 and 3 and the electronic attainment and gap analysis, the total cost would come to £1000. Given the expertise and wealth of materials you’re getting, I’d say that was a fair price.
VERDICT: Top Marks
The new tests are going to be more rigorous, and Cornerstones has more than matched that demand by creating some fine materials that offer challenge and cover every inch of the maths pitch. Cornerstones knows what it is doing, and these materials ooze confidence and support. These tests are just one small part of a very impressive Cornerstones stable of top-notch resources for primary schools. Put them to the test, and you’ll know you have invested wisely.
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