Year 4 MTC Ready: How to build recall and conceptualisation of times tables with your class

What is the Year 4 Multiplication Tables Check?

  • Designed to determine whether children can recall times tables facts fluently.
  • Allow schools to identify children who need more help becoming secure in their times tables knowledge, but not specific gaps (sadly!).
  • There is no pass/fail for the test, so no resits required (unlike Year 1 Phonics Screening Check).
  • The DfE will report on national attainment, but not report on individual schools.

What is included in the Multiplication Tables Check?

  • Each child will be set 3 practice questions. Then, they’re assigned a set of 25 questions at random as the check.
  • The test only answer multiplication questions. There are NO related division questions. 
  • As the table shows, the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 times tables appear more often in the check. 1 times table is omitted. 
  • Questions in reverse order will not be asked in the same check, e.g. either 7 × 8 or 8 × 7 might be asked, but not both within the same assortment for a check.
  • Pupils are given 6 seconds to answer each question. There is a 3 second pause between each question.
    NB: Children can either press enter or whatever response is given at 6 seconds will be taken as their final answer. 
  • The MTC is fully online/digital and answers inputted by keyboard or the onscreen number pad (either by touch on a tablet or using a mouse on a desktop or laptop computer). 

When does the MTC take place and who takes it? 

  • The test takes place during a three-week testing window in June during the Summer term.
  • There is no particular day the test needs to be taken, nor do all children have to do it at the same time or in the same room. 
  • All children in Year 4 are eligible and expected to take the multiplication tables check, apart from children who are:
  • absent during the testing window;
  • unable to participate, even with access arrangement measures in place; 
  • yet to meet the Expected Standard for times tables in Year 2 (2s, 5s and 10s); 
  • who are recently arrived EAL pupils;
  • other reasons to be submitted by the headteacher. 
  • In 2022, the testing window falls between Monday 6th June and Friday 24th June. 
  • Schools have the freedom to choose how and in what manner (individually, in small groups, as a whole class) they administer the check.

Do schools get to see results?

Children are not shown the results. Schools will see results (a total score for each pupil) in the ‘View pupil results’ section of the MTC service from the Monday following the final Friday of the testing window.

In 2022, schools can access results from Monday 27th June, as long as all pupils have completed the check or have a reason recorded for not taking the check, and the Headteacher’s Declaration Form has been submitted. 

Who is eligible for access arrangements?

Children who are eligible for access arrangements include those: 

  • with an education, health and care (EHC) plan; 
  • for whom provision is being made in school using the special educational needs and disability (SEND) support system;
  • whose learning difficulty or disability significantly affects their ability to access the check;
  • who have behavioural, emotional or social difficulties;
  • with EAL and who have limited fluency in English.

Source: Multiplication tables check: administration guidance 

Access arrangements for the Year 4 MTC

Various access arrangements are discussed in the MTC administration guidance, including: 

  • Colour contrast (e.g. yellow on black, black on peach…)
  • Font size (can be increased or decreased
  • Pause ‘Next’ button between questions
  • Remove on-screen number pad
  • Input assistance (provided by a parent, carer, or a fellow pupil)
  • Audio version (with/without audible time alerts)

There is NO additional time provision for the Year 4 MTC as this access arrangement detracts from fluency/automaticity that is being checked for…

Using familiar objects / representations to demonstrate times tables, as well as multiplication as repeat addition

Using familiar objects and representations helps children to connect multiplication with repeat addition.  

Here, the starfish each represent 5. So, it shows children that 3 x 5 = 15, three lots of five are equal to fifteen, or that 5 + 5 + 5 = 15 (five add five add five equals fifteen).

Similarly, bicycles or other two-pronged objects or bipod animals can be used for the two times table.

The bicycles above demonstrate the following, 4 x 2 = 8 (four lots of two are equal to eight), as well as 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8 (the same as repeated addition).

Using arrays to teach and conceptualise times tables 

Arrays are very useful for showing the commutative property of multiplication and useful for skip counting, and the sense of scaling as they allow for spatial reasoning. Namely, the greater the factors, the larger the array will be…

A three by six (or six by three) array

The array shows six columns of three counters or three rows of six counters, with a total of eighteen counters. If it were rotated 90 degrees it would then show the inverse: three columns of six counters or six rows of three counters, with a total of eighteen counters. As such, arrays are helpful in demonstrating the commutative property.

Furthermore, using the language of columns, rows and totals allows children to see (quite literally) the link between multiplication and division and therefore switch between the two operations fluidly.

Using area arrays to teach and conceptualise times tables 

There are similar to arrays, but a good precursor to perimeter and area learning. Moreover, 1cm grid paper is a fairly popular and low-cost resource. Imagine your school business manager’s beaming smile when you use scrap paper as a resource rather than asking for another class set of counters to be purchased!

The array shows seven columns of four squares or four rows of seven squares, with a total of twenty-eight squares. If it were rotated 90 degrees it would then show the inverse: four columns of seven squares or seven rows of four squares, with a total of twenty-eight squares. So, area arrays are helpful in demonstrating the commutative property, as well as providing an entry point into the teaching and learning of area.

Using number lines to teach and conceptualise times tables 

Number lines help with the conceptualisation of early times tables as they show the equal jumps required by skip counting involved in chanting or counting through times tables.  The equal jumps part is really the key component of number lines’ usefulness for times tables.

Here, the number line shows 6 x 2 = 12 (or 2 x 6 = 12), six jumps of two get to twelve.

If you have number lines (the long measuring tape kind) up to 100, this process can be helpful, particularly with children in Year 2 working on their 2, 5 and 10 times tables.

Using number tracks/grids to teach & conceptualise times tables 

Number tracks and grids, much like number lines, help give a sense of pattern by showing the equal jumps required by skip counting involved in chanting or counting through times tables.   

Here, with the three times table, pupils can see a pattern emerging on the grid. They can also see that each ringed number is three squares from the previous number. Can they spot any other patterns? (The answer is implied in the investigations section of the blog below…)

Using bar models to teach and conceptualise times tables 

Bar models can be used for times tables, too!

The bar model shows that eight lots of three are equal to twenty-four. So, 8 x 3 = 24, or if children have grasped the commutative property of multiplication that 3 x 8 = 24, too.

Bar models are helpful in that there is a stable total amount and that each of the part amounts is of equal size, too, acting as a useful graphical shorthand to further reinforce the notion of repeated addition that times tables facts embody.

Using a counting stick for rapid recall of times tables 

A classic video if you haven’t seen it before. It works for all times tables! 

Lots more examples of teachers and children using the technique on Twitter!

Investigation ideas for times tables

2 times table: “All products of the 2 times table are odd numbers.” True or false?

3 times table: “The 3 times table has an odd number, followed by an even number, followed by an odd number…” True or false?

4 times table: “You can find 4 times a number by doubling what the equivalent product is multiplied by 2.” Is this statement sometimes, always or never true?

5 times table: “All products of the 5 times table are even.” True or false?

9 times table: “All products of the 9 times table have a digital total of 9.” True or false?

10 times table: “All products of the 10 times table have a ones digit of 0.” True or false?

Using MathShed’s times tables game for automaticity

Ability to set individual times tables or groups of times tables.  

Difficulty modes:
– Easy (three multiple-choice options)
– Medium (six multiple-choice options)
– Hard (keyboard / number pad input).

Using MathShed’s MTC simulator for practice

The DfE provide a practice area for the Year 4 MTC, but it is only available from mid-late March each year until the testing window. 

To access the DfE’s practice area, pupils must be given their school password and PIN. 

MathShed’s Year 4 MTC is available year-round and is available for free to non-subscribers (as well as schools with EdShed subscriptions who have access as standard).

Using MathShed’s whole class and digital lessons to teach and consolidate times tables

Stage 2:

To be able to use the 2 times table
To be able to use the 5 times table
To be able to use the 10 times table

Stage 3: 

To be able to multiply by 3
To be able to multiply by 4
To be able to multiply by 8

Stage 4: 

To be able to become fluent in the 6 times table
To be able to become fluent in the 9 times table
To be able to become fluent in the 7 times table
To be able to explore the 11 and 12 times tables

BONUS: FREE Year 4 MTC and times tables CPD video

BONUS: FREE Year 4 MTC and times tables CPD presentation slides