Multiplication Tables Check
Key Questions Answered
What is the Multiplication Tables Check?
This is an annual check that Year 4s in England and Wales have a good level of times tables knowledge. Each child’s results will be known to the school and the government will have a national picture. However there will be no publication of a school’s times table tests results and they will not be one of a school’s accountability measures. The Year 4 Times Tables Test is an online test with 25 questions; children must answer each question within 6 seconds so the whole test will take less than 5 minutes.
Why is the government introducing this check?
The three Rs still reign supreme in the National Curriculum – Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Times tables fall under arithmetic. All primary school-aged children are expected to know their times tables up to 12 x 12 by heart. In fact, they are expected to have mastered their times tables by the end of Year 4. Until now, there had been no formal measure to judge whether children in England had learnt their times tables or not – with a formal judgement only somewhat made from a child’s Year 6 Maths SATs performance. So, the idea is for the Multiplication Tables Check to be taken towards the end of Year 4 to make sure children are meeting the benchmark of memorising their times tables up to 12 x 12 before moving up to Upper Key Stage 2 (Year 5 and Year 6).
Who will take the check?
The Multiplication Tables Check is only being rolled-out to schools in England. Children were due to sit the new times tables test for the first time in June 2020 however it now looks like children starting Year 4 in September 2020 will be the first to sit this test. Schools have a three-week window in the month of June to have their Year 4 children sit the test, but will be free to choose which day within that three-week period they choose to sit it. All state schools in England, including maintained schools, special schools, academies and free schools will be required to enter their children for the Multiplication Tables Check – the government is due to release further details about access arrangements for children with special educational needs at some point during the 2018/2019 academic year.
What is the test’s format?
The Multiplication Tables Check has been described as “an online, on-screen digital assessment” – meaning the children will take the test on a desktop computer, laptop or tablet (such as an iPad) at school. The DfE are breaking a lot of new ground here – they have never administered computerised tests in primary schools before now. A further bonus for teachers and markers alike – the programme that the test runs on will automatically mark each child’s times tables test.
The times tables test will be timed, with the entire assessment lasting approximately 5 minutes in total. The children will be set a handful of practice questions to begin with – mostly from the one times table. Following the practice questions, the test itself will comprise of 25 questions, all formatted, for example, as 2 x 5 = with the child required to input the product or result, which in the example we’ve provided would mean inputting the answer 10. Children will be given six seconds to answer each of the questions, with a three second blank gap between each question.
How will the questions be selected?
The questions will be randomly selected by the testing programme from 121 different options, ranging from 2 x 2 = up to 12 x 12. The test’s software has been programmed to show children more questions from the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 times tables, as these are trickier times tables focused on more in Years 3 and 4. (The 2s, 5s and 10s are more of a focus in Years 1 and 2.) Another point to note is that if children are shown a multiplication one way round, for example, 6 x 7, they will not be later tested on the multiplication inverted – so, with the example provided the child would not be asked 7 x 6 later on in their set of 25 questions.
How will test scores be reported?
Each child’s result will be passed on to their school, and the DfE will create a report on overall results across all schools in England to measure whether national times tables results improve over the coming years. It is understood that most schools will not tell children their results or that parents will be informed either (but the DfE have yet to issue any advice to date). One thing is for sure though – a school’s results will not be published in any public way, nor will they be used in informing any type of league or performance table.
What if my child does badly in their multiplication tables check?
No child will fail the times tables test as no pass mark has been set. It is also important to note that all children will be tested on is their times tables knowledge – with no problem solving skills being assessed and not even a single division question being asked! The DfE state that the motivation behind the multiplication tables check is purely to allow teachers a chance to identify children who need some more help with their times tables to stop them from falling further behind their peers as they move up to Year 5 (and then Year 6).
So what does this all mean for you as a parent?
The sooner you can help your child achieve mastery of their multiplication tables, the better! Of course, children will develop at their own pace, so if you have a multiplications maestro at home who has mastered their 7, 9 and 12 times tables by the end of Year 2, you’re probably going to want to find extra challenge for them in Maths. If your child is still getting to grips with their 2s, 5s and 10s in Year 5 or Year 6 – that’s OK too, remember Einstein flunked his Maths at primary school!