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What can we learn from the
2017 KS2 SATs maths test?

Thomas Hall, June 2017
2017 was the second year of the revised SATs format for the Key Stage 2 mathematics test. Schools are now aware that there is an arithmetic paper and two reasoning papers. Mental tests and the use of a calculator disappeared in 2015. This is also the second year of testing based on the revised mathematics framework introduced in 2014.
What can we learn from this year’s mathematics test?

Thomas’s 5 top tips!

1. Develop sound calculation and number skills
Without doubt, the importance of children having sound number skills cannot be underestimated. Paper 1 has 40 marks available for straightforward arithmetic. Yes, there is a range of difficulty though the paper. Some questions can be completed mentally, while there are harder questions involving long multiplication and long division. However, for children who can work with understanding and accuracy, there is the potential of a high number of marks.
Papers 2 and 3 also have a good proportion of questions that rely on number skills and are set with no or minimal context. In Paper 2, Question 3 asked children to complete a multiplication square and Question 5 involved adding or subtracting 1,000. In Paper 3, Question 1 asked children to find the missing number in a division calculation and Question 17 asked children to compare a mixed number and a decimal.
Competency with number is very important.
2. Develop problem solving skills
A large proportion of questions in Paper 2 and Paper 3 are word problems that are set with a context, often based in a real-life situation. Some questions are worth 1 or 2 marks and, it would appear, a 3-mark question will become a regular feature. The questions cover a range of difficulty. Children with good problem-solving skills will need to be able to interpret the problem, identify the numbers to use and the operations and number of steps needed to reach a final answer.
With a number of questions awarding marks for a method, children need to be able to record their calculations precisely, in case the make an arithmetic error.
Teaching the skills of problem-solving, as well as practice of word problems, is essential.
3. Develop factual knowledge
Some questions need factual knowledge. Paper 2 Question 7 needs a knowledge of facts about periods of time and Question 15 asks children to interpret a Roman numeral. In Paper 3 Question 11 asks about the radius of a circle, Question 13 asks about pentagons with acute angles and Question 18 asks about square and prime numbers. Unless children know and understand the facts and the vocabulary, they will not be able to answer the questions.
4. Less reliance on selected answers
Questions that involve selecting an answer by circling or ticking an answer seem to be fewer this year than last or in previous years. While multiple choice questions do not have to be easy, it would be fair to say that there are, therefore, more questions that need to have worked answers. This has the effect of increasing the difficulty of the papers.
5. Maintain an understanding across the whole mathematics curriculum
With all the emphasis on number and calculation it is easy to forget that there is a wider maths curriculum. Although a smaller proportion of questions are drawn from measure, geometry (properties of shape and position and direction) and statistics, they still are a substantial proportion of Papers 2 and 3 and should not be forgotten in the drive to develop number skills.