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l Y4 children will have their multiplication skills formally tested in the summer term of Year 4 from 2020. We explain the multiplication check latest developments.

In 2016 the then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announced that children in Year 6 would be expected to take another test at the end of their primary education. The Schools Minister Nick Gibb said in February 2017 that the multiplication tables check would be introduced in the 2018 to 2019 academic year, during the spring term, for Year 6 children.

On 14 September 2017 the Department for Education announced that the Times Tables Check will now be administered for children in Year 4.

Times tables test / multiplication check: the basics

Primary-school children are expected to know all their times tables up to 12x12. Under the current National Curriculum, children are supposed to know their times tables by the end of Year 4, but they are not formally tested on them other than through multiplication questions in the Year 6 maths SATs.

Why a new test?

The Department for Education says that the check is part of a new focus on mastering numeracy, giving children the skills and knowledge they need for secondary school and beyond.

Announcing the tests in 2017, the then education secretary Justine Greening said, 'A good primary education lays the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond. This year’s (2017) Key Stage 2 results showed our curriculum reforms are starting to raise standards and it is vital we have an assessment system that supports that.' 

Which children will sit the multiplication check?

The times tables test will be introduced in English schools only. It will be taken by children in Year 4, in the summer term (in June).

In June 2019 the multiplication check will be voluntary (schools will be able to decide whether to administer it or not). In June 2020 it will become compulsory for all English schools.

How will children be tested?

Children will be tested using an on-screen check, where they will have to answer multiplication questions against the clock. The test will last no longer than 5 minutes and is similar to other tests already used by primary schools.Their answers will be marked instantly.

This will be the first time that the Department for Education (DfE) has used computerised tests in primary schools.

What if a child doesn't do well in the multiplication check?

At the moment, we don’t know how many questions children will be asked, but it's likely to be 20 or 25, all on the multiplication tables up to 12x12. There will be no "pass mark" and no child will "fail" the test. Multiplication facts will be the only things tested (there will be no problem-solving in thecheck).

The DfE says the purpose of the check is to help teachers identify which children are falling behind and target areas where they’re not being given a chance to succeed.

School-level results won't be made publicly available or be used in league tables.

Is everyone in favour of the multiplication check?

As always, the introduction of a new test has prompted mixed opinions. While the Government insists that the check will help raise standards and benefit children who are struggling, others feel that another test is unnecessary.

How can you help your child practise their times tables?

Because the National Curriculum for maths is so extensive, there is an expectation that parents will help their children learn their times tables at home and not rely on schools to bring them up to speed.

Some of the techniques you can use include:

  • Practising times tables by rote.
  • Asking your child multiplication questions out of order – such as ‘What’s 11x12? What’s 5x6?’
  • Asking your child the related division facts: ‘What’s 8/4? What’s 9/6?’
  • Using arrays to help your child memorise times tables – you can use fun objects like Smarties or Lego bricks to make it more entertaining.
  • Giving your child word problems to test their skills, like ‘If Peter has 800ml of orange juice and needs to share it between four friends, how much can they each have?’
  • Using apps and games like TheSchoolRun’s multiplication games to build speed.
  • Singing times tables using songs like Percy Parker.