Exploring the use of the Times Tables APP- Times Tables Rockstars.

29 June 2018

Setting the Scene
My school is a small 1-form entry primary school with 184 children, based in the North West. The research was conducted with the year 6 cohort of children (23 children) and the test was conducted prior to using an app to develop our Times tables, an app which enables children to daily practice their tables in a short 2-3min section of the maths lesson. We felt that the introduction of the new year 4 times table tests that as a school we needed to implement a fun and interactive way to learn tables where children didn’t feel pressured but at the same time they felt able to challenge themselves to up-level their times table knowledge.

Initial Problem
I was interested in the use of ICT apps as opposed to pen and paper methods of testing Times table and the comments on Twitter seemed to be flooding in on how children in schools were using ICT apps to get their children learning their TT and they were improving daily. They said that children were excited and found the challenge and competiveness of it all engaging when competing either against each other or by playing against the app. In my school we had tried times table wristbands, which were awarded to children if they had successfully learnt and understand timetables; these became lost and forgotten about. I needed something that was going to fully embrace staff and children in the fun elements of learning tables, something that wouldn’t take much time and something that didn’t involve teachers having increased workload.

As we are in times of budgetary restraint, and the TT app wasn’t free to be loaded on all of our IPADs, it was felt necessary to show it had impact over and above other more traditional and cheaper methods of learning times tables

Anecdotal evidence suggested that times table apps helped quicken rapid recall, which as teachers we know is fundamental.  The way in which the apps works enable teachers to identify very quickly which TT each child in their class were struggling with which helped with planning and assessment. 20% of the questions were also division based which developed division facts and inverse, again something that was needed in my own school to help with quick recall of facts.  However, I found it difficult to locate any studies that using the app was more beneficial for children learning times tables. In contrast, studies by the EEF have indicated that using paper and pencil strategies than online digital learning (ABRA trial – https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/abracadabra-abra/)

What did you do? How did you implement the inquiry?
I began the process by dong a quick prior learning assessment using the TT work sheets (Particularly the 6x and 7x as these seemed the ones that children in the class were struggling with the most) Children took the test within a small allocation of time using. From this assessment scores were generated and entered into the pre-test section of the research spreadsheet.

The children were then split into 2 groups completely random and a mix of abilities and gender. Once group the (Intervention group) used the chosen TT app weekly alongside normal maths lesson TT basic skills sessions using pen and paper methods or chanting, whilst the controlled group didn’t access the app. This took place over the Spring term in the run up to SATs.

After May half term all children then retook the initial assessment of the 6x and 7x tables, again in the timed window (This making it a fair test s everything was kept the same as the pre-testing process).

Results were then recorded in the post-test section of the research spreadsheet for analysis and to identify if the chosen TT app actually had any impact on children’s TT recall.

Collecting data
The test that I used on paper to test the speed and results before and after using the app. This was in the form of a hardcopy worksheet which tested the 6x and 7x tables. There were 50 questions for the children to complete in a timed session (approx. 3mins). I used the same sheet again in the post-test in order to keep it a fair test.

The results from this research identified that 73% of the intervention group improved on their pre-test results (8 out of the 11 children in the grouping). 75% of the controlled group improved their pre-test results (9 out of the 12 children).  Within the intervention group (8) their score increased by an average of 12 points from their initial testing. In the control group their average point increase was 11 for the 9 who had all improved. These results would suggest that the use of the app against the non-app users had a similar impact on the rapid recall of TT. The children felt the app used was much more exciting and engaging; they could use it anywhere and at any time. The fact that the TT app could be used in a competitive way whereby the children could compete against not only each other but also other schools gave it that extra edge of excitement.

There was an effect size of 0.00, suggesting no difference between the intervention group and the control group.

On reflection I would only recommend the TT apps to other schools where children are disengaged as although the children were engaged and excited by using the app, the results did not suggest that it made any additional impact than traditional pen and paper methods.

Futhermore, I should have perhaps pre-tested more than just the 6x and 7x times tables to really be able to analyse the results but I initially wanted to focus my attention on a small scale to see what impact the app would have.

The sample size was only very small – a year 6 cohort of 23 children with only half doing the intervention, on reflection perhaps the sample size needed to be larger but as this was an initial trial it was felt that one class working towards their SATS would be ideal.

Also it is important, like with any app, to have the commitment from staff to use it with their classes and having ways to celebrate and promote success.

Posted on 29 June 2018
Posted in: Latest Research Evidence