In the run-up to the 2015 Let Teachers SHINE awards, we are catching up with some of last year’s winners to explore the innovative teaching methods they use to engage underachievers and improve grades. This week we spoke to Bruno Reddy, formerly head of maths at King Solomon Academy in London, who won SHINE funding for his Times Tables Clustars project.
The new national curriculum for maths has a strong focus on fluency and carries the expectation that pupils are able to understand and recall key mathematical facts. But, Mr Reddy came to realise, secondary pupils do not necessarily arrive in Year 7 with secure knowledge of the basics. If this knowledge gap is not addressed early on, pupils will find it difficult to grasp new concepts as their maths lessons advance.
Mr Reddy’s solution was Times Tables Rock Stars (TTRS), a sequence of daily times tables practice for pupils that includes the use of flashcards and a high-energy, call-and-response approach with a rock music theme. As well as worksheets, TTRS provides individual and whole-class multi-player gaming online and the opportunity to compete and be rewarded with titles such as "times table rock god" (someone who can answer a times question in under one second). Within two weeks of implementing the programme, he noticed significant improvement; pupils were motivated to beat the previous day’s scores and seemed to want to do better in maths as a result.
After using the method with his own students for four years, Mr Reddy was determined to see others benefit from it. He devised Times Tables Clustars to train and support teachers in low-income areas of London. The training comprises all of the times tables strategies, in addition to TTRS that Mr Reddy used at King Solomon Academy. This seven-month programme aims to accelerate the recall speed of Year 7 and 8 pupils and culminates in a Times Tables Rock Wrangle − the maths equivalent of a spelling bee, but with a prize fit for a global music star.
Times Tables Clustars combines local teacher training and ongoing support with the power of recording performance indicators and working in clusters. The training equips teachers to use Mr Reddy's methods, and allows them to make the most of localised support, competition and camaraderie.
Anne McAteer, a maths teacher at Paddington Academy explains why they chose to tackle times tables recall. “The problem in Year 10 and 11 is that they are not very fluent with times tables and that really slows down learning other topics that are based on multiplication and division. They struggle with concepts because it takes them so long to figure out the times tables. So we thought we would begin to tackle the problem in Year 7 with TTRS, which we had heard about from other schools.“
Before long, Anne and her colleagues noticed that “Pupils really look forward to Times Tables Rock Stars and they enjoy tracking their own progress. It sets a lovely routine for the start of lessons and it means that they have a more positive attitude towards their maths lessons.
Mr Reddy firmly believes that times tables recall speed has a positive impact on maths progress. As pupils start to enjoy maths more and report feelings of success and self-efficacy, an improvement in effort and perseverance will follow. What’s more, this is all captured in pupil and teacher-reported metrics at the beginning and end of the programme.
Of course, the impact of the project hinges on schools being committed to its success. The maths department at Trinity Academy, Halifax (pictured above) certainly went above and beyond to embrace their rock personas for the Times Tables Rock Wrangle.