Friday, 27 April 2012

Multiplication Tests every Friday!

From Year Three to Year Six, I remember being tested on my tables. There were twelve questions at Year Three and Four on a specific table, then twenty random questions at Year Five and Six…every week of my schooling for four years. If I remember these tests as a regular occurrence, then I’m sure others do too! 

So when I started teaching Year Five I heard the groans when the tables test was about to be given. They were sick of it. Were they sick of learning their tables, or sick of the presentation? Did these tests allow for individual needs or students who were in a music lesson when the tables were due to be called out?   
Tables had to be learnt. So with my students we brainstormed various ways of learning and testing tables…. Partner tests, Small Group tests, Tables race, Tables grid, Footy tables, Tables ladder, Dice tables, Choose your own…. I still needed a way to record the data without the mundane correction, time wasting recording of results…and get on with more authentic assessment!

Other teachers used a tables grid. I tried it for a while…A piece of paper with tables across and down. The timer went on. Students called out “finished” and a student monitor called out the time. Students read quietly while they were waiting for the 10 minutes to be up. Then a student monitor called out the answers, another student monitor collated the results on the group chart. Students could see their own improvements of time and accuracy, allowing for individuals to make their own progress. 

It worked well, something different! But everything gets boring if you use it too often. I soon figured out that Term 1 should be spent gauging were the students were at with their tables through small group tests, partner tests and teacher student interactive games, I  would use tables grid in Term 2 and 4, and something else in Term 3. 

Then, the iPad hit my school. Sure, there are quality teaching and learning apps out there and we played for a term or so, just getting used to the technology. At the back of my mind was that for some teachers, the iPad would be daunting and they would want to stick to tried and true pedagogies. Surely tables something that has to be tested EVERY week could be on the iPad, an easy way to do something familiar for teachers and students to make the leap and use the technology that was right in front of them! 

Little Monkey Apps Timestables was born! The app saves paper, and time for correction and allows for individuals to track their progress. In an update, students can pick their tables, choose the size of the grid or learn one set of tables. 

I would still have a chart of scores and times displayed because I love the morale booster when all the students can see a student making progress and congratulate each other (or commiserate when scores weren’t progressing). It gives ownership back to the student. The data collected is interesting, and as a whole gives you a snap shot of whether a child assesses well using this type of ‘test’. It forms ONE tiny jigsaw piece in the assessment puzzle!  (Don’t get me started on authentic assessment but I would prefer to ask “can you explain 8x5 to me as if I was an alien?” to see whether they REALLY understand multiplication!)
Every now and then, I think it would be beneficial to print off a grid, just to see if writing the numbers makes a difference to the way a student processes and recalls their multiplication facts. 

iPads don’t teach the student. Technology and Apps don’t provide the learning experience. The best teachers can teach without all the paraphernalia. Nothing can replace a quality educator, but if you’ve got the technology why not use it in a meaningful, useful and purposeful manner!

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