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Your Simple Guide to the Year 4 Maths Multiplication Tables Check

The new Multiplication Tables Check (MTC) is due to be introduced for Year 4 pupils in England in June 2020. This test is intended to help schools identify pupils who have yet to master their times tables.

It’s fair to say the reception to this new statutory Year 4 times tables test has been mixed at best.  A survey by the National Association of Head Teachers revealed that 94% of school leaders believe the MTC fails to tell them anything new about the ability of their Year 4 children. While general opinion towards standardised testing remains polarised, the reality is that MTC will become mandatory in all state-funded maintained schools and academies, including free schools, in the academic year 2019/2020.

Sumdog is committed to empowering teachers and students through fun, engaging learning. That includes a core promise to support teachers in closing the attainment gap. In order to assist teachers and pupils undertaking MTC for the first time, Sumdog has recently made its times tables content and teacher tools free to all users, offering access both online and through the app to its fun and engaging multiplication challenges.

Read on to find out more about the MTC, the importance of multiplication tables, and how Sumdog can support educational attainment with its maths games for Year 4.

What’s the timeline of MTC?

An announcement that trials of the Multiplication Tables Check would begin was made on 14 February 2018. Happy Valentine’s Day teachers! This letter of love from the Government followed a year-long consultation, and the earlier introduction of a phonics screening check in 2012.

A voluntary rollout of MTC began in June 2019, providing schools the opportunity to trial the test before its mandatory introduction in 2020. The calendar for rollout of MTC in 2020 is as follows:

Monday 23 March, 2020: A testing area will be opened on 23 March to enable teachers and pupils to trial the MTC test. This will also include the option to apply accessibility features for any pupils with additional needs. This can be accessed through the DfE sign-in. This date will also see the release of a range of guidance videos to support teachers.

Monday 8 June, 2020: A three-week window to administer MTC will begin on this date. Teachers do not have to administer the check at any particular time, and have the flexibility to administer the MTC to individual pupils, groups, or the whole class at the same time.

Friday 26 June, 2020: The window to complete MTC assessments ends on this date.

October, 2020: The Government aims to release a statistical publication of the 2020 MTC results by October of 2020. This will provide insight on national and regional results, but not school-level results.

Understanding the MTC

The MTC is designed to provide an assessment framework that analyses times tables recall in Year 4 pupils. This Government video on MTC briefly explores the intention, and framework, for the test. 

The test can be administered on a PC, Mac, laptop, or tablet. While further guidance is set to be released by the Government on 23 March, we already know details relating to the structure of the test:

  • Covers 2 times table up to 12 times table
  • Pupils will be asked 25 questions
  • They have 6 seconds to complete each question
  • 3 seconds rest between each question
  • 3 practice questions before the test begins
  • Tests may be restarted by teachers if a child is interrupted 
  • Tests may only be restarted twice
  • Takes most children no longer than 5 minutes to complete

Children will not be given a score once they end their test. Schools will be able to view their results once all their pupils have completed the check or have been marked as ‘not taking the check’, and the MTC headteacher’s declaration form (HDF) is completed. 

School-level results will not be published in performance tables, but the Department for Education will report on national and local authority results. Schools will be required to report the results to parents and carers.

Methods of learning and multiplication tables

The introduction of a new test is always controversial. What’s perhaps less controversial is the recognised importance of multiplication tables as an essential building block of mathematics

It’s critical when building fluency in maths that we focus beyond rote learning. This powerful article from respected educational researchers Jo Boaler and Cathy Williams explores the vital need to build the idea of ‘number sense’ learning, rather than an exclusive focus on memorising ‘maths facts’. By teaching children how to expand their understanding of problem solving within maths, we offer up the foundation to true maths fluency. 

While the burden on children is undoubtedly concerning to many teachers, there is evidence that memory testing can provide a positive boost to learning. “Taking a memory test not only assesses what one knows, but also enhances later retention, a phenomenon known as the testing effect.” (Roediger, Karpicke, 2006)

Yet a focus on true fluency necessitates the need for a dynamic learning environment that genuinely engages children. This isn’t educational hyperbole, but based on evidential understanding of neuroscience. “The truth is that when we scrub joy and comfort from the classroom, we distance our students from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, anxious, and anything but engaged.” (Willis, 2007)

If we want to build the right foundations of maths fluency, we need to not only focus on the basics, but ensure we’re empowering students with a truly engaging learning experience.

Multiplying opportunity with Sumdog

Times tables practice has been an integral part of Sumdog for years, providing the perfect platform to offer maths games for Year 4 and beyond that support children in preparation for the MTC. 

We believe regular, varied, and engaging practice is the foundation of true number fluency. That means creating an environment that encourages children to learn while building essential understanding. Sumdog’s games are designed around making learning fun, so that kids love to learn. 

Sumdog offers a suite of teacher tools which help build foundational times tables fluency that will support pupils and teachers to prepare for the Multiplication Table Check. It is designed to reinforce learning through targeted practice, and build children’s confidence through a tailored and differentiated learning experience

Setting up a multiplication challenge is a quick, simple, and straightforward three-step process:

  • Log into your Sumdog account and choose to ‘Set Work’ — no paid subscription required.
  • Select the tables you wish your students to practise, the number of questions, and duration of the challenge. You can create fluid groups and target specific children with specific tables. Pupils can participate at home or in school.
  • View results once the challenge has ended. A performance heatmap will indicate areas for targeting further practice.

You can find out more with this guide on multiplication tables challenges.

Focused support for MTC

Alongside the need for a varied and engaging learning experience, we understand that familiarisation is a key part of preparing children for assessments like MTC. That’s why Sumdog is now offering a free Multiplication Tables Check tool, accessible online or through the app, that allows you to prepare your Year 4 pupils for the check.

This MTC free tool maps directly to DfE specifications, inclusive of the six-second question timer, allowing pupils to familiarise themselves with the function of the test through the recognisable Sumdog platform. Inbuilt reporting tools will offer insight into student performance to ensure informed understanding of where and how best to support individual learning.

One of the major criticisms levelled at the MTC assessment is that it can shift the burden of understanding from mathematics recall to IT literacy. Sumdog offers a practice platform that can help remove that burden, enabling children to practise in a simulated testing environment that mirrors MTC, without the pressures of the official assessment itself.

This free, accessible MTC tool is part of Sumdog’s core mission to help close the attainment gap. Regardless of the feelings towards additional standardised testing in schools, MTC will become a statutory obligation from June 2020. Sumdog’s goal is to help support teachers in meeting the requirements of MTC in a way that promotes the best possible outcomes for Year 4 pupils.