If you’ve a child just gone into key stage 2, you’ll probably have heard that in year 4 they will have to do the new Multiplication Tables Check. 2018 was a trial year with some schools doing the test (ours did), 2020 is the first proper testing year. N will get to do it.

What does the year 4 multiplication tables check involve?

During a 3 week period in the summer term, all year 4 children will take the times table test online. The tables will cover all up to 12 times table, with the easier tables (x2, x5, x10) appearing less, and the more complex ones (x4, x6, x7) appearing more frequently. Questions will be # x # = format, with the child having 6 seconds to type in the correct answer. There won’t be a repeat of the same question asked.

There is no pass or fail, and results will not be reported or used for league tables. The aim is for schools to be able to see which children need more support with their multiplications.

year 4 multipllication tables check - Bubbablue and me

Is the multiplication test a good thing? Isn’t it just more testing?

More and more we’re seeing more tests, informal and formal in schools. The Year 1 phonics test has been around since 2012, there are currently Year 2 and Year 6 SATs in primary schools. These multiplication tables checks are the next one.

I’m of the view that most schools will make the test just another times table check. They do them all the time informally – ours do a lot of speed challenge grids in year 3 and 4, and the kids also do online maths challenges. It’s likely to be another extension for N’s year. They don’t do formal weekly times table tests like we used to do at school.

Personally I think the test is almost going back to rote learning, rather than the seemingly non structured way our kids learn nowadays. They understand how the sums can be is built up from ‘lots of’ to answer, but I’m still not sure N can answer mixed up tables questions as fast as we could at school.

The main issue I see is that it’s hard to answer and children can type the incorrect answer by accident when they’re trying to go fast. You know the answer but fingers slip or hit the wrong key and if that ruffles you (even though the test won’t show the answers or whether you got them right), it could impact the rest of your test.

However informal schools make it, some children will get worried if they get anxious about tests in general. I doubt N will be bothered, given he was very blasé about Year 2 SATs.

Tips to help children learn their times tables

1, Times tables are all about practice and time

Some children learn them faster, but it just takes time and practice.

2, Work out the way of learning that helps them

If they’re good at remembering things they’ve heard, by rote, or listening to or singing them to music will help. If they prefer reading and remembering, get them to write them down. If they’re a practical learner, get them to visualise groups of items in front of them.

3, As they learn more tables, go back to the ones they already know

Like anything, use them or lose them. Repetition helps, however boring it is

4, Make learning them a game and challenge

Have family tests, speed challenges with a times table grid, play times table bingo.

Download the challenge times table grid or make your own by mixing up the number order. See how fast they can complete the grid, or set a time limit and see how far they get. It doesn’t take many attempts to get them speeding up.

5, Times table Bingo

Get a big piece of paper or stick up a board or page on the wall with numbers on. Someone call out times table sums and you have to find the answer and cross it off. Complete the board, or have 2 boards and have 2 teams of players and be the first team to finish.

6, Try multiplication apps

Especially given the tests will be online, it’s a great excuse for children to be practising on phone apps or computer programmes. Or just set up you own challenge in Word or another package. Write out some questions and get them to type in the answers.

7, Use post it reminders stuck round the house

Either have the whole sum and answer, or just the question and have the answer underneath to check. Stick the multiplication chart on the back of the toilet door for them to read.

8, Test on random times table test questions when they’re not expecting it

If they can think on their feet and answer, they can answer under pressure in tests

9, Work with what tools they use in school

Our school sends home the login details for the websites they use in school so they can practice out of school if they want.

10. Remind them that the times table answer is the same in reverse

e.g 6 x 11 and 11 x 6 both equal 66.

11, Teach them the times tables tricks and short cuts

Examples of times tables hacks and memory tricks include:

  • 10x table – pop a 0 on the end
  • 9x tables – Use your hands for up to 10 x 9. E.g if you want 2×9, put your hands out on a table, count from the left, put the second finger down, and you’re left with the 10s to the left of the finger that’s down, and the units to the right. So 1 to the left and 8 to the right to make 18.
  • 9x tables to 10 – check the answer add up to 9. E.g 3 x 9 = 27 ( 2 and 7 = 9)
  • 9x tables – times by 10 then take away the number you’re multiplying 9 by. E.g 6 x 10 = 60. 60 – 6 = 54
  • 4x tables Brick method

Multiplication apps to try:

You can find out more information about the new multiplication tables check at the School Run

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