A maths teacher, who was inspired by the creator of Times Tables Rock Stars, is developing an online programme to improve pupils’ confidence in arithmetic skills.
Ebrahim Tafti has received an award of £25,000 plus support from Let Teachers SHINE, an awards scheme aimed at nurturing innovative new ways of improving school attainment among disadvantaged children.
He now hopes his Arithmagicians website will go on to help thousands of struggling students across the country.
“Pupils often resort to a written strategy to answer questions which can and should be done mentally. As a result, pupils don’t become fluent mathematicians,” Ebrahim explained.
“Mental maths is an important life skill as well. If you’re ever out shopping, for example, and you want to buy a dress, and it’s 20 per cent off, you should be able to work out 20 per cent without getting your phone out. But what I’ve noticed is a lot of pupils, and even adults, require a phone or a pen and paper to do calculations, which should and could be done mentally.”
Arithmagicians is a fun website which features games where pupils can race against time to answer maths questions mentally. As they improve, they achieve a status – from Rookie all the way to Super Genie.
Ebrahim said: “The only way you’re going to improve is by practise, yet repeatedly practising the same thing can be extremely boring. But if you are collecting coins, and you are trying to beat your previous score, or beat the class, that’s repetitive practice made fun.”
At present, Arithmagicians exists only in a paper format and fifteen schools have signed up to trial the programme. But with the Let Teachers SHINE funding, Ebrahim plans to develop an online version and he hopes to have a basic version being trialled in schools by this autumn.
Past Let Teachers SHINE winner Bruno Reddy, who created Times Tables Rock Stars, used to teach at the school Ebrahim attended as a pupil.
“Bruno is my inspiration. He’s how I heard about Let Teachers SHINE. He’s the reason why I started this project. When I read about his story, his motivation for creating Times Tables Rock Stars, it really got me motivated. I thought to myself, ‘Okay, how can I do the same for my pupils? What other areas of maths do they really struggle with?’ And I came up with this idea of Arithmagicians.”
Ebrahim first took his idea to Bruno and asked if he could develop it. But Bruno suggested Ebrahim could do it himself and urged him to apply for Let Teachers SHINE for funding and support.
Unlike other maths programmes, Arithmagicians covers a wide range of mathematical topics, including addition, subtraction, division, fractions, and percentages.
“Another thing that makes this game unique is that all the questions are in the style of the SATs Arithmetic Paper pupils sit at the end of Key stage 2. At least 60 per cent of the questions in that paper can and should be done mentally. But because pupils use a written strategy to answer all the questions, they run out of time, and they don’t get all the marks, so therefore they don’t achieve the expected standard for maths.”
Ebrahim, who teaches at Pirton Hill Primary School in Luton, was delighted to receive the award from Let Teachers SHINE: “I’m really grateful that unique charities like SHINE exist. Otherwise, teachers like me would not have the opportunity to develop their ideas and share them with other colleagues across the country.”