## How I passed the QTS maths test – part 2

The first part of the QTS skills test is the mental maths section. To pass this, it helps to have a good grasp of times tables. I was lucky that I already knew these really well because my school had insisted we knew up to 12 x 12 by the end of year 4.

If you who don’t know your times tables, my first piece of advice would be – learn them. Get to know them inside out and back to front. If you’re a visual learner, pin flashcards on your bathroom mirror, inside your fridge, above your desk and anywhere else you are likely to spot them as you go about your day. If you’re an auditory learner, record yourself saying them and listen to them instead of the radio when you’re out in the car, watch times tables songs on YouTube and sing along. If you’re a kinaesthetic learner, try turn tables cards.

Learn some times tables tricks. If there are any in particular that you struggle with, give yourself an incentive to remember them. If 7 x 8, 7 x 9 and 9 x 6 are the ones really holding you back, change the PIN on your bank card to 7856, the PIN on your phone to 7963 and your house alarm to 9654!

When you are confident that you know them, make sure you know them backwards. It helps to know that 2 x 9 and 3 x 6 both equal 18, but it helps even more if you can look at 18 and know that it’s divisible by 2, 3, 6 and 9.Finally, practice spotting relations between numbers. If you know 4 x 8 = 32, then you also know 320 is divisible by 4 and 8 as well as by 10, 40 and 80.

Then enlist a friend who is good at maths to give you some problems to solve. I got my husband to set me 3 problems a day, along the lines of: If I can buy two tins of soup for 70p, how many can I buy for £4.20? Here I had to spot the relationship between 42÷7 = 6 and 420 ÷ 70 = 6 . Once you know what sort of thing you’re looking for, it doesn’t take that long to spot it.

Ok after tables make sure you are confident with number bonds eg 6 + 4 =10 and 3+7 = 10 so 16 + 4 = 20 and 13 + 7 = 20. If you’re anything like I was, even though you know 3 + 7 = 10 you still feel obliged to count on your fingers – you know, just in case it’s changed since last time! The key is practice, practice, practice until you can override that desire. Then make sure you are equally confident at splitting single digit numbers into smaller ones. Eg 7 = 6 + 1 and 5 + 2 and 4 + 3. This means you can now quickly turn 18 + 7 into 18 + 2 (= 20) + 5 = 25, without needing to slow yourself down by counting on fingers.

Last of all it was time to get to grips with fractions and percentages. The first thing to remember is that fractions and percentages are the same. I wasn’t convinced either, but remember that per cent means out of 100 so 70% = 70/100 and doesn’t that look just like a fraction. The second thing to remember is that fractions are easy when you know your times tables and have practiced looking for relationships between numbers. 1/7 of 42 = …oh look it’s that relationship between 7 and 42 again and by now we all know that’s six.

For the mental maths part of the test I practiced for 10 minutes every day for 6 weeks and that was plenty. If I hadn’t already known my times tables I may have needed double that time, but still not as long as you might think for a mathsphobic. And if I can do it you can too.

If you feel you need a little tuition to get you through the skills tests, and you live in north Birmingham, get in touch to see how I can help you.

## How I passed the QTS maths test – part 1

Like a lot of people, I was always scared of maths. I hated it at school – somehow those numbers never made as much sense to me as they did to my peers. But because claiming to be bad at maths is seen as something to be proud of in this country – it’s up there with not being able to speak another language – I never really worried about it.

I’d somehow managed to scrape through O level, and somewhere along the way I learnt how to work out a gross profit margin, which was all I needed to do my job, so everything was fine. Until I decided I wanted to retrain as a teacher.

Suddenly I had the prospect of the QTS skills test looming over me. I wasn’t worried about the English and ICT ones, but the maths one filled me with fear. I tried the online practice test and ended up a weeping, soggy mess on my desk. So how did I get from there to where I am now, which is a qualified teacher who

• passed the skills test first time
• has the confidence to teach maths up to Y6
• is able to tutor pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 in maths
• tutors trainee teachers to help them pass the same test

The short answer is practice! The longer answer is more practice and a lot of help, and I began by dividing the test into its two parts: the mental arithmetic section and the traditional pen and paper maths section. I tackled each part separately, and in the next two posts I will explain how.

## Top Ten Random Posts on Education

I’ve never written a round-up post before, but I’ve been blogging for a while and now seemed like a good time to take stock of which posts people have read the most and to reshare them. I’ve decided to group them by topic rather than a charts-style Top 10, so here goes….

The maths ones
These are all inter-linked, so I think people have clicked from one to another. Teaching Number Bonds and Teaching the Times Tables both have suggestions for helping children get to grips with these areas. They’re based on things I have tried and found to work well. What’s the Best Order to Learn the Times Tables does what it says on the tin!

The English ones
VCOP is a little out-of-fashion these days, but I don’t think it hurts to remind children to think about it. VCOP Display is a display with a twist that throws in a bit of SPaG with it. A Disco in my Classroom is all about teaching verbs in an intervention group.

The guest post
Teachers- it’s time to face the music was written by the very talented daughter of a friend of mine. A must read for all teachers – see if you can guess which one you are!

The growth mindset ones
Of Einstein and Fish is all about why I hate that picture of the animals standing in a line and being told to climb a tree. In my opinion it’s annoying, nonsensical and a cop-out! When is a test not a test? explains how I turned end of unit tests into a bit of fun and helped the children to become more active learners.

The personal one
I wrote What do you say to someone who’s grieving? when I lost my mom. It’s something we all struggle with but it’s something that rarely gets talked about. A lot of people have told me that they really appreciated me writing this and that they found it very useful.

The random one
I have no idea why Who or what is La Befana? has been so popular. I’m not complaining – just bemused!

It’s a bit of an eclectic mix, but those are the 10 best performing posts on my blog.

## What’s the best order to learn times tables in?

Sometimes, something seems so obvious to you that you can’t imagine that other people don’t already do it.

This is how I feel about times tables. I’ve always encouraged children to learn them in a particular order and have always just assumed that everyone else does too. However, the more different schools I work in, and the more I come into contact with children who are being asked to learn their times tables in numerical order, the more I have come to realise that this is not necessarily the case.

I always get my pupils to start with the 10x tables. These are easy. There’s a pattern to 1×10=10, 2×10=20, 3×10=30 that makes them easy to remember. Once the child has spotted the pattern they can easily recall them in any order. I follow x10 with x11. There’s another pattern here 1×11=11, 2×11=22, 3×11=33 that takes them all the way through to 9×11=99. They already know 10×11 from their 10x tables, and if they struggle with 11×11 and 12×11 there is a little 11x tables trick they can use to work them out.

After that we look at 2x tables. There isn’t a pattern to these, but the answers are all even numbers, they are all doubles of the question, and the highest answer is 24, so they are fairly easy to learn.

When they are confident with x2, it’s time to move on to x4. All the answers here are double the 2x tables, so while they are learning 4x they are still practising 2x. This is important as I have seen so many children forget the x table they have just learnt when they start learning a new one.

After x4 comes x8 because – you guessed it – it’s double x4. If necessary the children can look at the number in the question and do double (x2), double (x4) and double again – eg 3 x 8 –> double 3 is 6, double 6 is 12 and double 12 is 24 so 3 x 8 = 24. This means that while learning their 8x tables, children are continuing to practice x2 and x4.

By now the children are feeling confident because they know their 8x tables, and everybody knows that’s a hard one, so it’s time to drop back a notch to a couple of easier ones to get two more under their belts in quick succession. In the 5x tables, all the answers end in 5 or 0, which is a big clue to the answer, the answers are all half of the 10x tables, and most children can count really quickly in 5s so even if they struggle with recall they can work them out quickly. Then we look at the x9 finger trick so that even if they never manage to learn their 9x tables off by heart, they can work then out so quickly on their fingers that it doesn’t matter.

Then we take stock of where we are. They know their x1 x2 x4 x5 x8 x9 x10 and x11 so they can see that we are 2/3 of the way through them, and two of the so-called tricky ones (x8 and x9) are out of the way.

And so we move onto the threes. Now in my opinion, x3 really is a tricky one. There are no patterns, it’s not as easy to count in 3s as it is on 2s, 5s or 10s and there are no tricks. After x7 I think it’s the trickiest one there is. However, now it’s not so bad because they have learnt most of their tables already, so there’s only 3×3, 6×3, 7×3 and 12×3 left to learn which doesn’t seem too daunting at all.

And then of course x6 is double x3, so they can learn x6 and practise x3 at the same time.

By the time they have finished their 6x tables, the only ones left are 7×7, 7×12 (and 12×7) and 12×12, and buoyed up by the confidence of having learnt all the others it doesn’t take long to finish these last few.

If you need some idea for how to learn the times tables, rather than just this suggestion of which order to learn them in, have a look at Teaching the Times Tables.

## F is also for….Finger tables.

We all know that times tables are really useful, so but some of them are just too hard to remember. Luckily there are tricks to help with some of the really difficult ones.

I’m sure you already know the 9 times tables trick, but if you don’t have a look at this video which explains it https://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=167010. Does that make the 9s seem a bit less scary?

There is also a trick for those awkward 6s 7s and 8s.  It’s not as easy as the 9s trick, but if you are really struggling with them then it may be worth a go. Have a look at this blog post which explains step by step how to use your fingers to use the times tables you already know to work out the 6s 7s and 8s.

Good luck!

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