Jocelyn Knight: Maths Lead King’s Cliffe Primary School, Peterborough
Times Tables and the inverse..................sorted!
Ever tried teaching formal written calculation methods or anything to do with fractions or percentages to a class with a minimal knowledge of their tables - let alone the inverse? This frustration led to our determination to find a way to enable pupils to overcome this significant obstacle. Thus, began the journey of Tackling Tables.
We appreciate that mastering instant recall of tables and the inverse by the end of year 4, is not the universal panacea to solve all maths challenges. However, from our personal experience, the empowerment afforded by such knowledge has visibly changed pupil’s self-perception and unlocked not only their learning but impacted significantly their attitude to maths.
The rationale behind Tackling Tables is to establish the understanding of number relationships and in so doing overcome the age-old problem of “I can multiply but I can’t divide”. So, rather than learn tables in isolation Tackling Tables helps children to appreciate commutativity and the inverse.
You can see from the way the cards are designed that the approach is very simple. We aim to help children appreciate for example that if they know 9 x 5 = 45, they should also know that 5 x 9 = 45. Introducing the inverse at this stage also means that they know 45 ÷ 5 = 9 and 45 ÷ 9 = 5.
Children find the development of instant recall through regularly playing with the Tackling Tables cards exciting and utterly engaging. Furthermore, motivation is sustained by regular “Beat your Best” testing and whole school recognition through certificates and button badges.
Tackling Tables takes the age-related National Curriculum expectations and breaks them down into 3 colour-coded phases.
Blue Phase 1x; 2x; 5x & 10x (by end of year 2 - age 7)
Green Phase 3x; 4x & 8x (by end of year 3 - age 8)
Red Phase 6x; 7x; 9x;11x & 12x (by end of year 4 - age 9)
Whilst the common perception is that as you progress, the task gets harder, with Tackling Tables, as children systematically move through the phases, the number of tables left to learn - and therefore the number of cards -reduces. In effect, the job gets easier!
Tackling Tables is easy to implement as a whole school approach and very effective. If our year 2 children can arrive at year 3 with the instant recall of 1; 2; 5 and 10 times tables (and the inverse) in place, then it will be much easier for these young KS2 pupils to develop their mathematical competence. With this systematic approach embraced throughout the school, it liberates the year 5/6 children and teachers, enabling them to focus on the challenging demands placed upon them.
In addition to basic testing material, the scheme has been developed to include a significant amount of intelligent practice material (e.g. missing numbers; multiples and fractions of amounts) so that children throughout Key Stage 2 and even into Key Stage 3 can deepen their understanding by applying what they have learned.From a school leadership perspective, pupil progress pupil progress by class/gender/disadvantage and SEND can be monitored using a bespoke tracker spreadsheet which is now available to all Tackling Tables schools. The spreadsheet also enables the leadership team to monitor what percentage of children are working at age-related expectations.
Finally, to strengthen this innovative teaching and learning resource, Tackling Tables online is about to be launched. This will support the playing of the Tackling Tables cards by enabling children to play online any time and on any device. Scores will be recorded and reports automatically generated for teachers and school leaders. Watch this space!!