Sunday 19 February 2012

Download a free Time Tables Challenge tool

My three boys have all been through a primary school (one is still there) that expects kids to learn their multiplication tables at home.

One day the school sent home a nice printed page that had all the sums set out in a grid. Each table had its own column and the sums in each column were in what looked like a random order. It looked a bit like this:

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My son sat down with it and carefully filled in as many boxes as he could. We checked it (he got some of them wrong, but not many) and continued to get him to fill in the sheets whenever one came home in his bag.

He got better and better, of course, but there was a problem. I noticed that the sheets were always the same; the sums always appeared in the same order. When presented with the sums in a different order, he wasn't as quick or as accurate.

I learned from the school that whenever they wanted a new sheet a teacher had to sit at the PC and make one manually. Consequently, it rarely happened and they kept just photocopying the old one. As an Excel developer, I realised this was something that could very easily be automated.

One evening, I created the form as an Excel worksheet and made two innovations. The first was this button (and some VBA behind it):

Hit that, and the whole sheet changes. All the sums appear in a new, random order in each column. All you need to do now is hit the print button and you have a new, randomly generated exercise sheet ready for your child to fill in.

My second innovation makes me slightly ashamed. You see, as a parent, I was the one who ended up checking all the answers, and it turns out that I lack the combination of accuracy and attention span required to do a good job every time. So I designed a little cheat for myself:

Click to zoom
You'll probably need to zoom in to see that properly, but I added a second worsheet, called 'Answers'. When you generate a new sheet, behind the scenes Excel creates a matching cheat sheet marking aid for busy parents:

Click to zoom
Print that one off alongside the exercise questions page, and your checking becomes a doddle.

Anyway, I know some of the folks who ready this blog are parents, too, and thought some of you might be able to make use of this tool. So here it is. If you're a teacher who wants to use this in their school, please go ahead. If you want to adapt it or fiddle with the VBA, feel free; it's not protected in any way.

Download the Times Table Challenge.


Ena said...


Yesterday I asked you about downloads fitting for Pocket Filofax and so I´ll come back every day to your blog hopefully... ;-)

And today there was something I didn´t expect, but it is fantastic!!!
I´m a teacher at primary school and I just loaded it an saved it with my maths stuff concerning multiplication table. (And because there are no words included I will be able to use it in Germany as well ;-) )

Thank you very much,

Unknown said...

Fabulous Ray. Thank you once again

Steve Morton said...

Over here in France they only do up to their 10 times table...

Going up to 12 times stems back to UK having 12 pence in one shilling... I think...


Ray Blake said...

I made a version that only goes up to 10x10 as well if anyone wants it.

Ray Blake said...

OK, then. In response to email requesting access to the 10x10 version, here you all are:

Unknown said...

I downloaded your 12x12 times table with "generator" VBA from your box link, however, when run it cannot find the macro.

Ray Blake said...

That is likely to be because your macro security settings are set high. Look here:

Unknown said...

WOW! Thanks so much! Just found it :) This is perfect for busy teachers....


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