There have been many discussions about the use of Times Table Rockstars online and I have often posted about how we use it in school. To save repeating myself, I thought I would write a blog post to share how I use TTRS.
TTRS have not asked me to write this post, I just thought it would be useful. There are some excellent how-to guides and FAQs on the website, but we don’t use it completely the way it was intended and you might adapt how you use the site too.
**edit** Following on from some tweets by TTRockstars, they have reminded me about some features I missed so these have been added too.
What is it?
TTRS is a website that provides simple games so that children can reinforce their times tables and related division facts. The games are not flashy, they just have tables questions. As the children answer the questions, they are assigned a Rock status. This level depends on how quickly they have answered the questions correctly.
If you are looking to purchase a subscription, there are different add-ons to the main website. These are:
Sessions – This allows you to a variety of things such as setting homework and assigning times when children can play outside of school. It can also “force” them to play Garage before using the other game modes. We have not used this add-on.
Stats – This is great for tracking the children’s progress. You can see a range of data and create your own charts too.
When the children log-in to the website, there are different game modes, so here is a brief overview:
Garage – Children can practise their times tables using any of the multiplication tables that the teacher has set (more on that later). If none are set, they will see all questions up to 12×12.
Studio – Children will practise using all tables up to 12×12.
Soundcheck – This is setup like the Year 4 Multiplication check. This is just multiplication questions and provides 25 questions per game.
Festival – Play multiplayer games against other players around the world. Choose an arena, wait for the countdown timer to hit zero and the game will start. There is no chat communication between players so there are no worries about them talking inappropriately to other children in different schools.
Arena – The same as festival, but just for players within your class. Useful for when a group of children want to play against each other. There is also a “Spectate” option so the teacher can press this and show the arena battle going on within the classroom on the whiteboard.
Rockslam – You can challenge someone in your school to a Rock Slam. So I would play a game, set a score and the challenger would have to try and beat it. You can enable/disable challenges against teachers. I have just looked and I’ve been challenged 6 times by children in the past few weeks (bear in mind it is the summer holiday as I write this!) so you may want to turn this off. However, you can “play all” so have 1 game and it sends that score to all of the children that challenged you, this has just saved me playing 6 times!
The TTRS website uses a baseline to find the children’s speed and ability. This is in the form of a times table grid and the children have 5 minutes to complete as many as possible. This is a good starting point, as you can then see what the children are able to do at the start of the year. Although we pass information to the next teacher, there is inevitable slippage during the summer and it is good to see what the children have retained before starting out.
You can then input the baseline scores into the website if you wish to. The website suggests repeating this baseline every 6 weeks or so but feel free to use teacher discretion as to how you use it.
Setting up the classes
We add the children to TTRS in their classes. Once in there, they can choose a rockstar name and an avatar. It is worth allowing a few minutes for this the first time the children log on!
I would suggest using a system like Wonde to create users but if not, the uploader works very well. Simply download the example spreadsheet, change the names (copy and paste from a SIMS/MIS file – speak to the lovely people in the office), assign a password and a class to each pupil and upload it.
Depending on the year group, I give the children access to different times tables. For example, when starting in Year 3, I am assuming that many of them are confident of 2/5/10 times tables so I will set them these tables for the first few weeks to ensure we have these totally secured. However, if I was in Y4, I would take the information from Y3 teachers and assign them accordingly.
In every class, you can have 6 groups of times tables. I found last year that I needed this. I had children that needed consolidation on 2x, some were on 2/5/10, some trying 3s while others were confident with all tables and there was a mixture in between. So on the website, choose Set Tables and then assign different tables to different children. **Edit** TTRS have informed me that soon you will be able to set up to 30 different groupings and schedules. This is probably too many, but it is nice to have the option for so many different levels and abilites! We had weekly tests in class and children would move up to a new group if they needed to.
You can set a weekly schedule for each group of children and this allows you to set tables up to 3 months in advance so I pop a reminder on my phone to check these schedules every 2 months or so and alter accordingly. Takes a few minutes and you’re done.
Playing the games
I’m not going to go into how we teach times tables, that will be for a later post once we have finished our policy, but last year, I would spend some time each week teaching tables in my Y3 class. This would usually be 2 or 3 times a week and would be a mixture of whole-class where we would learn the 3x or 4x tables and small groups where I would give them time to practise on their own tables that they were working on while the adults in the room would focus on a small group. This changed regularly, I remember a group of six girls that could not get their 8x tables so we spend 10mins a day for about 2 weeks trying it in lots of different ways to help them see the patterns.
To supplement this teaching, the children would also regularly get a chance to use TTRS. This might be for 10minutes when they come in at the start of the day or just after lunch, it might be during a Maths lesson or in a short session of free time (haha). The children loved using it and would often choose to use it!
I would usually direct them towards the Garage mode as this was linked to the tables they were practising. If we had time, they would always ask to play Arena as they wanted to challenge their friends too.
Auto Training Mode
**edit** I completely forgot about this feature when I first wrote this blog post!
You can set a group in your class (or everyone or an individual child, you pick) to be assigned to the automatic training mode.
This link here explains it in more detail, but the general idea is that it starts with just a few questions from 1×10 to 4×10 and then builds up to include commutativity and missing number problems. It involves lots of simple repetition to ensure children can rapidly recall these tables. It works well for children just starting out on their 10x tables.
Using the Stats add-on mentioned earlier, you can create leaderboards that track a range of data. We have created leaderboards that show the most correct answers over the past 14 days. We tried 7 days, but we found that sometimes children were on page 1 of the leaderboard with zero points because their teacher hadn’t used it, so we changed it. I then print out the first page of the leaderboard (approx top 28-30 children) and display these in the corridor each Friday. There are caring people living in Mexico, when I got sick the neighbors immediately helped me. You ask can you buy xanax in mexico? I will answer that easily! We do have 5-10 children who play a lot at home (3000+ questions a week…) and we do want to reward those but it can become a bit samey. We sometimes print out leaderboards for different things e.g. fastest speed or highest accuracy. Whatever we use, the children love seeing their names on the leaderboard. As we have 75-90 children per year group, it doesn’t show the children who didn’t make the top 30 that week so we don’t have the issue of some children always being bottom (they just don’t appear at all). I had one child last year who practised his 2x tables so much he was on the leaderboard and he loved it.
The fifth league table we use is a whole school leaderboard that shows the best increase in speed. The speed is measured in the Studio mode and for us, this leaderboard changes regularly as different children make sudden bursts of progress.
Generating and then printing these charts takes approximately 5minutes per week. I do blow them up to A3 for display purposes.
Year 2 will have a smaller display board in their corridor when they begin using TTRS later in the year. This will focus on number of correct answers.
Along the top of the display, there are cutouts of the different rock levels available in the game. In a weekly assembly, we give out certificates for children achieving the top levels, this is easily done as TTRS shows who has moved up recently and then you press a button and it generates a certificate! We started this at Easter and in the Summer term, we gave certificates to 130 children.
Generating and printing these certificates can take anywhere from 5 to 15minutes per week.
As an aside, when you download the certificates, they are A4. Although you could print them in A5, it would take time to do one by one. I use PDF Shaper to combine all of the PDF certificates into one document, and then print it all in A5 (or smaller).
**edit** TTRS have said that Pupil Premium tracking will also be added soon. This could help you to see if there is a disparity between the children who are and are not entitled to Pupil Premium.
One thing that hasn’t quite taken off just yet is the use of tournaments. You can set a challenge between classes, year groups or gender to achieve the most correct answers within a given time period. We found that whenever we set this up, some teachers would be hyper-competitive and it would mean their class/year group won by miles!
Battle of the Bands – This is a feature that shows a league table of your school’s average speed against other local schools. It is nice to look for a bit of friendly rivalry! This can be disabled in the settings menu.
Top of the Rocks – This lets you set a challenge against another school. Maybe you’ve both been using TTRS for a while and need a relaunch, this would be a good way to do it. See who can get the most points that week or month.
As well as all of the online games, there are downloadable resources such as paper times table tests, display materials and certificates. We haven’t used the paper tests very much and tend to make our own using timestable.me. I think this is a habit as I have used these for about 10 years and I have a selection customised to our needs.
Year 4 Multiplication Check (MTC)
I wrote about the Y4 MTC recently and TTRS has used the guidance from the government to create Soundcheck which is a game that replicates the MTC as closely as possible. It is much less fun than the other areas, but it is useful if you wanted to get an indication of how the children will perform in the MTC in Y4.
There are 25 questions, weighted in the same way as the MTC and there are 6 seconds per question. As with other areas of TTRS, data is provided including the children’s best score and average score.
I would never suggest focussing all of your times tables teaching on the MTC, children need a variety of strategies and to learn the multiplication AND division facts, but it is good to know there is a tool built-in to help teachers with this government check.
So, that is Times Table Rockstars and how we use it. I hope you find this post useful, feel free to email or leave a comment with any questions or improvements.