Bruno Reddy first applied to Let Teachers SHINE in 2014 to receive funding for a platform for students to practice their times tables on. Since then, the Times Tables Rock Stars website has exploded, with 320,000 students accessing the site in the 2015-16 academic year. The aim of Times Tables Rock Stars is to improve students’ times tables, with a series of timed games. But the positive effects of the website have been far further reaching than this.
If a child enters school without the basics in maths, it becomes very difficult for Teachers to move this child onto more complex mathematics. However, when a student has the basics, like their times tables, memorised it means that they’re not spending time and energy on working out times tables, and can move onto the more advanced elements of a maths question.
Some of our SHINE staff went to visit one of the schools that have been using Times Tables Rock Stars in their maths lessons. Kondwani in Year 9 said “I wasn’t that interested in maths, then [after using Times Tables Rock Stars] I saw that it was important and I even enjoyed it. Now I think it’s my favourite subject.” The boost in confidence for students like Kondwani who have, with the help of the website, lessened their times tables recall time from 6.4 seconds to 4.4 seconds has been tremendous. This is especially important for students from lower income homes, as in 2014 only 36.5 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved 5 A*-C English and maths GCSEs, compared with 64.0 per cent of all other pupils (Department of Education November 2015).
One of Kondwani’s Teachers commented that “for the lower attainers it’s been really useful, even though its used amongst the higher sets too. There’s so much disparity amongst the pupils when they start Year 7, but Times Tables Rock Stars brings them up to the same level, and gives the lower attainers a great routine that’s enjoyable.”
However, it’s not just confidence in maths classes that the website has helped with. Year 9 student Oyinda told us that it helped her make new friends at school, as she met them through playing Times Tables Rock Stars in their break times. “People like electronics,” she says, “and the website encourages people to play it like a game.” Many of the students play the times tables games in their break, competing against each other and therefore improving their communication and social skills as well as their maths.
The website has been a huge success, encouraging students to get better at their times tables so they can move up through the ranks to become a ‘Rock God’, or so they can spend the points they win from playing the games on cool outfits for their rock avatars. One of the highest achieving users of Times Tables Rock Stars, Ricardo from Year 10, told us that “without practice, you can’t get better”. Ricardo took part in the 2015 Rock Wrangle in London, which brought together students from 37 different schools so they could battle for the trophy, whilst raising the profile of maths. At one of their school assemblies Ricardo even beat the creator of Times Tables Rock Stars, Bruno Reddy!
This year, SHINE is continuing to support Bruno as he improves the website and helps more schools launch it in their classroom, so it can improve children’s maths and confidence in their abilities. He is looking to expand the programme into more primary schools and hopes that all pupils aged 10 or under will become a “Times Tables Rock Star” – someone who can answer a times tables question in less than three seconds.
If you’d like to know more about the Let Teachers SHINE competition, visit our Teacher-Led Innovation page for more information.