Why we developed the App
Michael and I taught Secondary Mathematics in Victorian State Schools for over 30 years. In that time we witnessed a significant decline in the numbers of students who were fluent in all of their Multiplication Facts. While there have always been some students who did not know all of their facts, the majority of students knew most of them. in recent years, wehave taught Year 7 classes in which less than a third of students were fluent in more than their 2s, 5s and 10s Multiplication Facts. Additionally, there were students who were not fluent in their Addition Facts up to 20.
So what has happened?
Over the last 30 years there has been a welcome move away from the rote learning of time tables in Primary Schools. This change in approach meant that students were taught their Multiplication Facts with a focus on understanding, efficient strategies and in a logical sequence. This approach should have led to far better understanding, fluency and a greater ability to apply their number facts in a variety of situations. Unfortunately, for a range of reasons, this improvement hasn’t occurred.
The recommended approach to teaching Multiplication Facts still needed students to practise their recall in order to become fluent. Appropriate skills practice is required to consolidate a student’s learning into long term memory, allowing for reliable recall. Our belief is that too many students have not completed enough practice of these efficient strategies to become fluent in their Addition and Multiplication Facts. Note that this practice is not the rote learning or reciting of times tables that many of us remember and someimes advocate. Rote learning, particularly for students of Secondary School age, in our extensive experience, has very limited efficacy.
Our Times Tables Strategies App* is designed to provide specific practice using these efficient strategies for Addition and Multiplication. By completing this practice students will commit both the 'times tables' and the efficient strategies to their long term memory.
Each strategy has examples of how to apply it and then the practice is targeted specifically to that strategy. Because there are 20 questions in each practice session, and only 7-10 facts to practice, many of the facts are repeated within the session. This aids in the creation and development of brain pathways needed to gain fluency in these facts.
Mathematics ability is often judged by knowing your times tables. Research has shown that knowing multiplication facts features highest in giving a child a sense of self-confidence about their mathematical abilities. This plays a crucial role in learning and applying mathematics. The adults in students’ lives also judge their mathematical ability on knowing their tables. This is true for students themselves and for their families. And adults apply the same judgement to themselves if they don’t know their tables; they believe that they are no good at Mathematics. There is no doubt that an adult’s lack of fluency on their Multiplication Facts would have contributed to their difficulty with Secondary Mathematics. However, when these adults are shown the strategies in the App, they often say, "oh, that’s how I work it out. Perhaps I am good at Maths."
Many students do work out their own strategies and often they are the efficient ones in the App. And of course, any keen followers of Australian Rules Football usually are good at their 6s Multiplication Facts, as each goal scored is worth 6 points. The strategies in the App are by no means the only efficient strategies for learning the Addition and Multiplication Facts. Any student who has worked out a strategy which is fast and consistently accurate should continue to use that strategy. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. But reciting tables starting from 3 x 1 = 3, songs or rhymes, or skip counting to work out that 3 x 9 = 27 are not efficient strategies. And if students need to use these methods they don’t know their tables; they just know the songs or how to skip count.
* Currently only available for Apple devices.