Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Turning Lessons Up to 11 with Rock Star Times Tables

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Turning Lessons Up to 11 with Rock Star Times Tables

Article excerpt

Contest aims to roll out the red carpet for numeracy skills

Are your pupils having trouble learning their times tables? Perhaps it's time to don a long curly wig, unleash the air guitar and rock 3 x 8.

That's the approach that Bruno Reddy, pictured right, took with his Year 7 class. Now his vision of turning a tough maths chore into a hard rock celebration is set to take centre stage in a spectacular event for pupils across London.

The Times Tables Rock Wrangle in June aims to do for multiplication what the spelling bee has done for onomatopoeia. Some 160 students from 40 schools in the city are being invited to receive red carpet treatment for a week, before challenging each other to race through their times tables via an online test at the grand finale event.

There will be an air guitar competition, fancy dress photos and roving paparazzi - all adding to the heady atmosphere of students being worshipped for their prowess at mental arithmetic. And in true rock god style, the overall winner and their team will be treated to a helicopter ride over London.

Mr Reddy, formerly head of maths at King Solomon Academy in London, said: "It began five years ago when I realised my Year 7 class didn't know their tables off by heart. I wanted a fun way to practice, so I gave them rock names and played rock music."

As the students got quicker at times tables calculations, they moved up the rankings from "wannabe" (taking more than 10 seconds to answer a question) to "rock star" (less than 3 seconds) and finally "rock god" (less than a second).

At the end of the year, the school held a red carpet day to celebrate everyone's achievements, with the top scorers battling it out in a times tables competition.

"Then one of my students said, 'Why not turn Times Tables Rock Stars into an online game?' " Mr Reddy recalls.

So he did. Some 1,100 primary and secondary schools are now signed up to the Times Tables Rock Star site ( The students log in, then choose a rock name and an avatar. By answering times tables questions, they can win rewards to spend on new clothing and accessories for their avatar.

Mr Reddy won a grant through the Shine Trust's Let Teachers Shine competition last year to expand the approach into more London schools by training teachers and exploring different strategies. Now Shine's partner Bloomberg, the financial information company, has agreed to host the Times Tables Rock Wrangle grand finale on 26 June.

Mr Reddy said: "The pupils will be racing each other on the computers - they are not standing up in front of the audience - but the plan is for there to be big screens so spectators can watch. …

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