Could you recite your six times table in 14 seconds? Louis, a Year 5 pupil at Heathfield Primary in Bolton, can. And just so you know this is true, you can go on the internet and hear him doing it. Then you can flex your fingers and add a congratulatory comment.
The rote learning and chanting of multiplication tables became unfashionable for a while, and was given low-profile treatment as a rather boring necessity. However, the approach taken at Heathfield, which uses class blogs to encourage learning and highlight success across the whole curriculum, is the polar opposite of low profile. It is also, for the children, very far from boring.
Heathfield's acting head David Mitchell has been using class blogs for two years, first to improve children's writing by giving them a worldwide internet audience. So when Mr Mitchell was asked, in the summer term of 2011, to take on a group of Year 5 children who were underachieving in maths, it seemed natural to harness the power of the blog to help them along.
"Clearly, a lot of the children's problems came down to the fact that they didn't know their tables. It was affecting everything - problem solving, longer calculations and, of course, confidence and self esteem," he said.
Now he uses a range of learning strategies, including songs and games. But the real buzz for the children, he says, was the opportunity to show off their high-speed table-chanting skills in a public, online numeracy league.
Children gave themselves names and made timed attempts on the tables being studied. There were other online speed tables and challenges in which children could enter their improved "chanting times" via a Google spreadsheet that automatically updated the table displayed on the blog. Louis, for example, won the opportunity to record his performance by improving from 40.7 seconds to 15.5 and then 14.7. You can see the blog and others on the Heathfield blog site (http:heathfieldcps.net).
Mr Mitchell's group are now back in their normal Year 6 classes, with renewed confidence for their Sats-year numeracy work. "They found they could get better, tackle what they thought they couldn't before - and with maths that is really important." Mr Mitchell said.
Gerald Haigh is a former headteacher who now writes comprehensively on education
Gerald Haigh recommends:
Mr Mitchell's maths blog: http:teammitchell.heathfield cps.nettagmaths
How to embed Google spreadsheets into your blog: http:bit.lysHWIF5
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