The pupil who came to me counting on his fingers two years ago, and who has been moved up a set in maths, is now to be entered for higher tier rather than foundation at GCSE. This result is based on giving him fluency with number work, including tables, number combinations, long multiplication and long division to two places of decimals, using the mnmemonic Tam's Bunnet, described here. It is more or less the only mnemonic that I use anywhere, and I'd be interested to hear of any others for this purpose. The order of teaching addition facts is important - I do not rush to complex conceptual issues such as finding the range of combinations that will make ten unti the pupil is very secure with combining two single-digit numbers. The 2x table is equally crucial, and I do not proceed to another until it is secure.
Tam (right) and his friends in their bunnets.
I used it again on Friday evening with a ten year old who lacks confidence in maths and who, like the pupil above, did not know the 2x table when we started. It took him a while to remember, and he still makes some slips in multiplication that hold him up, so we need to work on that at the same time. An advantage is that close observation of him working shows exactly where the slips and gaps are, so that it becomes clear where we need to focus the teaching.