Headteacher Sue Teague wanted to improve maths standards at Caddington Village School in Bedfordshire and make the subject more fun for students. So Mike Smith, the school's chair of governors, devised an app that helps children to learn times tables, addition and subtraction by making a game of them, and enables teachers to monitor their work closely.
The school bought mobile phones so children could have access to the maths app. Students log in and the teacher tells them which table to work on depending on their level. Over a 20-minute period, the app asks questions about all multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.
Students have 15 seconds to answer each question. A correct answer produces a chirping sound while wrong answers are met with a low vibrating sound.
At the end of the session the app tells the students how many answers they have got right and wrong. Crucially, it also sends the data to the server so the teacher can see immediately how each student has done and work on weak areas. The results include the answers given by each student and the time taken to calculate them.
"Pupils can work at a pace that is right for them," Teague says. And the app means that the teacher does not have to take home piles of exercise books to mark their work.
"A class of 25 kids playing for about 10 minutes will generate 2,500 individual answers - all 'sliced and diced' ready for teachers to see who got what wrong. That saves a lot of marking," Teague says.
The app can also be used to do addition and subtraction through "number bonds", which can be chosen by the teacher or the students.
So, for example, if a student chooses a number bond of 100, the app might say 67 and the answer will be 33. Again, the app tells the students how many answers they get right and allows the teacher to look at the results.
Tips from the scheme
Students should use the app every day - practice is key to success.
Teachers should look at the website regularly to see what each student is achieving.
Encourage students to increase their speed of play - accuracy will follow.
Evidence that it works?
"It's cost-effective and fun and we are seeing a real impact on pupils' learning," Teague says. "The game play generates a huge amount of data and learning (times) tables helps students to move on to a higher level of maths.
"The data provide valuable insights into the numerical cognition of children across a range of years and vital information for teachers to develop personalised learning."
Approach: Using a mobile phone app to teach maths
Leaders: Headteacher Sue Teague and chair of governors Mike Smith
Name: Caddington Village School
Location: Caddington, near Luton, Bedfordshire
Age range: 3-13
Type: Community school
Intake: Mixed, mainly white British.