A study into Times Table Rock Stars…

In my previous posts I discussed the CPD module we were taking part in this term (read more in previous blogs here and here). As the term is coming to a close I have completed the research and written it up ready to present to other staff in the final CPD meet this week.

I thought I would share my research publicly to show what a dramatic improvement TTRS has had on the retention and speed of recall of multiplication tables 1×1 through to 12×12.

I hope you enjoy reading the final results:

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What effect does a computer/app based programme have on multiplication retention and recall in year 3 students?

Evidence for action:

In February 2017 the government announced plans to reintroduce times table tests to the end of KS2 SATs tests. Recall of both multiplication and division facts by students is often laboured, leading to children struggling to apply facts to solve more complex problems (Wong and Evans, 2007). Learning multiplication and division facts by rote can often be ‘boring’ to children which can lead to low retention in students.

Computer games have often been suggested as useful educational tools (Egenfeldt-Nielson 2005). Not only are computer games motivational for children (Garris, Ahlers and Driskeel, 2002), they provide immediate feedback so children are instantly aware of mistakes they are making. Further to this, as games allow children to make mistakes and try again in a risk free environment they are more likely to explore and experiment, ultimately increasing the time they spend practicing (Gee, 2005; Kirriemuir, 2002).

Research conducted by Herold (2013) suggested that interactive learning of multiplication was more successful than computer or paper based practice whereas research by Bauer (2013) found that the group who used the computer based programme showed the greatest growth in comparison to flash cards and paper practice. With this in mind a mixture of paper and computer based practice and testing was used in this research.

Evaluation methods:

Times table rock stars (www.ttrockstars.com) is a paper, computer and app based programme that supports children in the learning of multiplication and division facts; it is used by a growing number of primary schools in the UK and is highly rated.  I decided that all children in the class would be using the same and there would be no control group- this decision was based on ethical grounds.

A baseline test was conducted before the 4-week trial. It featured all multiplication facts from 1 x 1 through to 12 x 12; both the time taken to complete and correct answers was recorded.

During this four week trial, children ‘played’ on the app in school 3 times a week and took the paper test once a week. They also had access to the app at home.

At the end of the 4-week trial children were then re-tested with time and answers again recorded and compared against the baseline scores.

Surveys were also conducted using google forms to ask children what they thought of the app.

Results:

Results from the baseline tests:

  • 38% of children increased amount of correct answers and time
  • 51% of children improved overall time to complete with no effect on correct answers
  • 67% of children improved overall time to complete
  • 29% of children did not increase time but improved overall correct answers

Some children who improved their time did make more errors. Many of those children who improved speed but made more errors commented on the pressure they felt on themselves to complete the test as quickly as they could and felt they made mistakes they shouldn’t have.

Results from student survey:

  • 91% strongly agreed that they enjoyed using times table rockstars
  • 74% strongly agreed or agreed that they enjoyed doing the paper tests
  • 78% strongly agreed or agreed that they think times table rock stars has improved their recall
  • 71% strongly agreed or agreed it has made their recall quicker
  • Home use of the app was varied:
    • 2% use it everyday
    • 2% use it 2-3 times a week
    • 2% use it at weekends
    • 5% never use it at home

Impact:

From this study it is clear that TTRS has had a huge impact on the retention and speed of multiplication recall. There has also been a noticeable change in lessons where children are drawing on known facts to solve more complex problems.

A further impact is the motivation on boys learning their multiplication facts. The competitive element of the app has allowed friendly competition between peers and has driven an increase in practice. This said, it needs to be considered that not all children are accessing the app at home and a further study could look at the difference in speed and accuracy in relation to use of the app.

From this study, it is clear that TTRS should continue to be used into the next academic year. In order to not only continue but drive motivation, a number of workshops and events around TTRS will be planned into the calendar year and a survey will be conducted further in the year to look at motivation and enjoyment levels to ensure it is still having an impact.

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