Educational leadership & learning

So, in the news this week Nick Gibb has confirmed that from 2019, Year 6 pupils will undertake a Times Tables test alongside their other SATs tests.

Nick Gibb Times Tables test announcement

“Multiplication was a “very important” part of a child’s mathematics knowledge, Mr Gibb said…It is my view that there should be a multiplication check.”

To be fair I don’t disagree at all with Nick Gibb’s view that an accurate and quick recall of times tables facts (and the linked division, fraction, decimal and percentage facts) are very important. Not to pass a test (or check) but to allow pupils to focus on application of these facts when undertaking complex or lengthy calculations and problem solving. In my opinion having a secure and accurate recall and understanding of some basic mathematical knowledge is crucial in order for pupils to think and work as mathematicians.

After all if someone was learning a musical instrument they would need to know key information, such as how to play certain notes and how read music before we could expect them to play whole pieces of music fluently and expertly.

I’m not sure I even have a problem with there being a test in Year 6. By then all pupils should know these facts. But what about other facts…

Since the introduction of the Phonics screening check in Y1 and Y2, schools have invested a great deal more time on teaching phonics. Again personally I think this has had benefits, but it has also potentially minimised time and focus on other aspects of reading, and other strategies required to become a fluent and confident reader.

So what are the other aspects of Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge? And will some of these be sidelined to some extent in the drive to show high achievement in a national test linked to school accountability?

At our school we have a series of “Maths Learn Its” that go home each term (these can be viewed at Maths Learn Its or on the Numeracy Shed, thank you @grahamandre). Within school we have ‘Regular Drip’ time, which is when what we think are key reading, writing and maths knowledge is practised during registration times, and in those 5 minute slots that sometime appear before lunch or going home time.

These are then balanced with the pupils being engaged in more contextual practice and application in more open-ended problem solving lessons.

For me Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge would include:

  • Counting on and back (in different amounts: 1, 2, 5, 10, 100, 1/2…)
  • Finding 1 more or less (moving onto 10, 100, 1000, 0.1…)
  • Number bonds to 10 (and all single digit numbers) (moving onto to 20, 100, 1000, 1…)
  • Place Value knowledge and understanding, initially Tens and Ones (moving onto Hundreds, Thousands… and Tenths, Hundredths)
  • Time tables to 10 x 10 (and learning how these link to division facts, fractions, decimals and percentages)
  • Doubling and halving
  • Multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000

 

In his excellent book “Transforming Primary Mathematics” Mike Askew (@mikeaskew26) explains his view on ‘Elements of fluency’ he states that:

“In moving up through the years of primary mathematics children are hampered if they are not fluent in

Elements of fluency

  • adding or subtracting a single digit to any number
  • adding a multiple of 10 or 100 to any number
  • counting on or back in ones from any starting number
  • counting on or back in twos, tens or fives from any given number
  • recalling rapidly the multiplication facts up to 10 x 10
  • multiplying any number by two or ten”

He then goes on to share a second set of skills which he calls ‘Procedural fluency’. He states that these would include:

“Procedural fluency

  • knowing what to add to a number to make it a multiple of 10 or 100
  • halving any number
  • multiplying any number by five ( by multiplying by ten and then halving)
  • knowing the division facts associated with multiplication facts”

 

I do wonder what the views of other primary colleagues are. If you had to pick a Top 5 aspects / sets of maths knowledge / skills for your pupils to be absolutely secure, fluent and confident with by the end of Year 6 what would they be. I’d be very interested to hear.

 

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