Thou shalt... Sats

Marjorie Gorman presents her 10 commandments for maths Sats...

Year 6 teachers want to help all their pupils perform to the best of their ability in the Sats. Unfortunately, these tests have assumed more importance than individual assessments and this causes extra pressure on pupils and teachers.

It is important to keep a balance between anxiety and complacency, between necessary practice and interesting lessons. Once the curriculum has been thoroughly covered, pupils need to sharpen their skills through number games, puzzles, and team challenges, not just tests and more tests.

Children gain confidence by talking about their maths. Allow time for them to discuss efficient working methods, not merely right or wrong answers.

Encourage pupils to make up problems for themselves and challenge their friends to find the answers.

My 10 commandments for Year 6 pupils are: Develop a positive attitude

So many people, even as adults, have a negative attitude towards maths. A certain amount of stress is needed to achieve one's best, but too much anxiety has a detrimental effect on performance.

Take the tests in your stride. You have had similar tests in previous years. Don't decide at the first look at a question that you can't do it - have a go. If you find it too difficult, move on to the next question and come back to it later if you have time.

Know your number facts

The more facts at your finger tips the better; it means you can work quickly on some questions giving more time for others you find more difficult.

For example, in 2004 you could have gained two marks for a simple sorting problem involving odds and evens and square numbers. If you cannot memorise all multiplication table facts, develop strategies for working them out quickly from facts you do know.

Answer the question

Read the questions carefully and do what is asked. If the question asks for two options, don't choose three, in the hope that two could be correct. The examiner cannot select the two correct options.

Think about the problems

Make sure you understand what is being asked, by reading the questions carefully. Decide what information you have, the calculations needed, and make sure your answer makes sense. This is particularly important on the calculator paper. Interpreting an answer such as 7.5 into seven and a half buses is not sensible.

Remember the time

Each paper has about 20 questions to be completed in 45 minutes.

That means roughly two minutes per question. Easier questions will take less so you have more time to spend on the harder ones. If this aim of two minutes per question seems daunting, set a timer and check what you can do in two minutes.

* Practise explanations Searching for the right words in the middle of a test can take up a lot of time, so practise brief explanations. Use numbers and equations where you can. Many children lost a mark and too much time in the 2004 paper trying to justify their agreement, or not, that, "Every multiple of 5 ends in 5". Everyone at KS2 should have been able to gain a mark for that question.

Show workings

Don't waste time writing down all that you can do in your head, but where you are asked to show your workings, make sure you write something down. You may gain a mark if you can demonstrate an appropriate method, even though the answer is incorrect.

Measure accurately

Marks can be gained on "measurement" questions. Many marks are lost because the measurement is not accurate. Practise reading scales and using your ruler and protractor.

Read graphs and timetables

Make sure you are confident reading graphs and timetables. Apart from the data-handling work in school, try to gather information from graphs in newspapers and magazines. Consider whether the information is misleading.

Be prepared

Be prepared for questions presented in unusual ways. For example, last year a question on symmetry used a hexagonal grid that confused some children.

Think about ways to make the questions easier for you - perhaps use fractions for decimals or percentages.

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