About time we tested times table knowledge

About time we tested times table knowledge

From next year it will be compulsory for every Year 4 student to sit a quick fiveminute times table test.

It’s already been piloted in some schools and already there are critics crawling out of the woodwork. Some are bemoaning that children are being taught to the test and others have complained it’s making the curriculum too narrow.

The whole point of the test is to find out if children know their times tables by heart.

Using a computer programme, the youngsters will get five minutes to answer 25 questions – six seconds per question.

If children know their tables by heart and out of order, six seconds is perfectly long enough.

Children will only panic if they have not learnt their times tables sufficiently. It is not a case of working them out, it is just a case of knowing them.

We expect children to learn their alphabet both by letter and sound. Although they probably learn the alphabet by rote initially they are then expected to know how the letters function individually and with other letters as their education develops. This is complex but they have to learn it.

Numbers are no different. Knowing the times tables out of order or at random is the basic foundation needed for all maths up to GCSE – not knowing them will severely limit a child’s progress.

There is no teaching to the test in this kind of arrangement, as the test is all about identifying if a child knows their times tables well enough to give automatic answers to random questions. If children have to resort to rote learning e.g. 1 x 7 = 7; 2 x 7 = 14 etc until they reach 8 x 7 to answer a question they will not have time to complete the test.

The inverse operations are of course important e.g. 56 ÷ 8 = 7 or 56 ÷ 7 = 8. However, children must learn their times tables first in order to tackle this. Criticism of the test on this basis is ridiculous.

Accountability is also important and this test will be crucial in showing if primary schools are successfully ensuring their Year 4 pupils know their times tables – as required by the National Curriculum.

This is not narrow learning but essential learning and it’s about time too.