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Here’s how UK schools plan to catch up with Asia’s maths whizzes

UK thinks times table tests will turn kids into maths whizzes. Source: Shutterstock

England’s eight- and nine-year-olds will soon have to take a times table test, as part of the country’s plan to improve their maths skills.

The Guardian reported that the five-minute on-screen test of times tables up to 12, will use the “mastery” approach to maths, popular among schools in Shanghai and Singapore. The test will begin to be trialled at some primary schools in England next month, before being compulsory nationwide in 2020.

“This will ensure that all pupils leave primary school knowing their times tables by heart and able to start secondary school with a secure grasp of fundamental arithmetic as a foundation for mathematics,” Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb said today, as reported by HuffPost UK.

The test was first proposed for 11-year-olds in 2015 by the Conservative party.

In 2015, the Conservative Party’s manifesto unveiled “tough new standards” for schools, ie. learning times tables, complex multiplication and division, reading a book and writing “a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar” by the age of 11.

The Guardian notes that English students lag behind their peers in East and Southeast Asia when it comes to numeracy skills (as can be seen in this chart here).

https://twitter.com/olafcramme/status/757133425186856960

England’s mean score in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study was 546, while Singapore’s was 618. Chinese students are consistently at the top of pile for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) as well.

Though the government has assured schools that the test would not stress teachers and students further, many teachers disagree with its implementation, which comes just after the Sats tests in maths and English for seven-year-olds are being phased out.

The National Association of Head Teachers Deputy General Secretary Nick Brook called the introduction of the new tests “hugely disappointing” as NAHT is already in the midst of working with the government on how to deal with primary assessments generally.

NAHT and two other unions representing teachers and university staff, the National Education Union and VOICE, said the test “won’t tell teachers anything they don’t already know” and will put extra pressure on children.

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