The 1 Million Times Table Challenge


Do you want to make a genuine difference in the world?

I do.

This is my goal, and I need your help.


Conversation is increasingly “exams are getting harder”. The children who struggled before, now struggle even more, and expectations of success are becoming more prevalent from an earlier age.

Parents want to help their children but are often unsure how or where to start.


My goal is to support 1,000,000 children to become confident with their times tables.
It’s a huge goal and I can’t do it alone.

That is why I have created the ‘1 Million Times Table Challenge’.



I have created an online course to demonstrate to parents, carers, educators that the games I use at Starr Tutoring to teach the times tables are accessible, easy to understand and enjoyable.

(I have used these games with children from 5 to 16 years and also with adults returning to education).

mini template


For someone who hated maths with a passion these games have been amazing, giving her confidence and understanding!

Thanks to Dawn, our daughter has started enjoying her maths again!

“He [our son] used to hate maths but his confidence has grown so much and he is really enjoying it”


The course consists of a series of videos which are backed up by the templates you would need to create the games and an e-book which explains the importance of making learning a positive and varied experience for both the student and teacher.


You can read an extract from the e-book here which explains this in more detail.

Read the extract by clicking here

The course will be just £12!


I have kept the price low, not because I question the value it will offer. I believe it will offer you amazing value for money. I have kept it low because I want it to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

The 1 million times tables challenge button


In addition, every time one person invests in the course another person will receive access to the course for free.

This person can be nominated by yourself or someone else.

They may be:

  • A child with special educational needs
  • A parent on a low income
  • A child in foster care
  • A young carer
  • An adult returning to education


If that sounds like someone you know please do email me with a nomination at with the subject line “nomination”.

If you feel you want to make the investment in the course so that both your child and someone else’s child can benefit, more details can be found here:

The 1 million times tables challenge button


Please, share this post and help me spread the word so that I can help that 1 million target and help as many children as possible gain their confidence.

The times tables are a key factor being a confident mathematician and I am sure that with self-assurance in your child’s times tables, their confidence and ability will grow in many other aspects of maths and their education as well.

If you do purchase the course and decide the games aren’t suitable for your child, let me know within 90 days and I will refund your money; no questions asked.

So, with the increase of children in education on the rise and expectations getting higher, please help me to offer that all important foundation of understanding.

The 1 million times tables challenge button
The better support the child has at the initial levels the greater the impact it will have on them and society.
Join me in providing that support and giving 1 million children confidence in their times tables.

Help make a difference.


The 1 million times tables challenge button

Homophones and Homographs

More and more emphasis is being put learning different grammatical terms.

Here are two which you’ve possibly heard of, but not sure what the difference is; homophones and homographs.

Here’s what they both mean:

Homophones: words that sound like another word, but has a different spelling and meaning.

Homographs: One of two or more words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation.


This is a really simple game that I often play in the lessons with children who are learning about these. It also helps with the spelling of these words as you are creating a visual image to associate with each individual spelling.

I bring with me a list of homophones/homographs. The list might include:


  1. Witch / which
  2. Hour / our
  3. Bear / bare
  4. Here / hear
  5. Eight / ate
  6. Ant / aunt
  7. Piece / peace
  8. Flour / Flower
  9. Bow / bow
  10. Meet / meat
  11. Four / for
  12. Tail / tale
  13. Berry / bury
  14. See /sea
  15. Knight / night
  16. Knew / new
  17. Sale /sail
  18. Eye/ I
  19. Deer / dear
  20. Write / right / white
  21. Blue/ blew


Take it in turns to choose a word from the list.

Don’t tell the other person which word you’ve chosen.

Now cover the list up and try to draw your chosen word.

The other person has to try and guess what the word is that you’re (attempting) drawing.

Once they have correctly guessed, you need to write the word next to your picture, making sure you choose the correct spelling / version.

Some of the words will obviously be easier than others to draw but that just adds to the challenge of the game.

Don’t forget this is a game and games should be fun, so remember; if your child makes a mistake, mistakes happen. Ask them if they’re sure they’ve written the correct word (they’ll normally spot it themselves once pointed out), ask them to change it and move on to the next person’s go.

Most importantly, enjoy sharing the time together.


If your child is struggling at school and you are thinking about getting a tutor, we can probably help. Click here to find out more details.



5 ways to, creatively support your child with extending their descriptive vocabulary.

Does your child struggle to make their writing interesting due to a lack of descriptive vocabulary making it all seem a bit flat?

If you have read any of my other blogs you will know that I am a firm believer that a child will be more responsive to learning if they are enjoying themselves.

In order to learn a child also needs to repeatedly try several different ways of doing things in order to create a range of memories and make it easier to recall the information (words) when needed. However, if these techniques are enjoyable, they will hopefully be more willing to participate…

These are some of my favourite methods of extending vocabulary that I use for tutoring.

  • Funny pictures

This may be a game you may be familiar with.

You start by folding the top of the paper over and drawing a face (a fairly unusual one) so that the neck sits at the fold of the paper.  You then hand the piece of paper to the other person so that they can’t see the face.

This person then draws the body starting at the fold at the top of the paper. They fold the paper over and hand it over to the other person so that what has been drawn previously can not be seen.

This person then draws a pair of legs and feet.

Open the piece of paper out so that the entire image is revealed.

You now need to try and think of as many words as you can to describe this picture alternatively write down the alphabet and try to think of a word starting with each letter to describe it.

(The more detail each section is given, the easier the task is).


Scrabble letters


This game is simple.

Take a bag of scrabble letters and divide them equally between the 2 of you. You then have to use all of these letters to create a variety of words. You can’t use the names of people; the words must be at least 3 letters long and spelt correctly.

It sounds very easy, which initially it is, however, as you are left with fewer and fewer letters it gets more and more challenging making you think hard about the words you know that could be used.


Describe the picture

This is similar to the first activity except this time the picture can be one from a magazine, from Google, a book or any other source that you have available. Again you need to think of as many words as you can to describe the picture.


A to Z of…

Think of a theme. Anything you like: countries, animals, colours, places, synonyms, antonyms, etc.(I often blend this with the; describe the picture and the funny pictures tasks so that you have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet to describe the picture).

You now have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet associated with that theme.


Extend the sentence

Finally this can be used with quite young children. You now have to think of as many descriptive words as possible to extend the sentence.

Start with a very simple sentence such as: “The cat sat on the mat.”

You may then choose to add brown resulting in: ”The brown cat sat on the mat”.

The next person may add to it and say: The tired brown cat sat on the mat”.

Keep going thinking of as many adjectives as you can that make the sentence more interesting.

Please don’t discard these ideas as being “too young” for your child.

I have played them with children aged from 5 to 16 and with adults. I suspect there is no upper limit to the age they are relevant to if you/your child are willing to adapt a range of creative resources into learning.

I hope these ideas have given you some food for thought for activities you can try with your own children. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

If you would like to sign up for the weekly free email offering ideas on how you can support your child in maths and English please drop me an email at:

If you think having a tutor is the way forward for you, please do get in touch and I will do my best to help.

Look forward to speaking to you soon


Warm wishes



Help your child Learn to spell the fun way


For many the weekly spelling list is a slog. Hopefully, some of the suggestions here will make it a more enjoyable experience and remove some of the stress.

Most primary aged children will bring home a spelling list most weeks, and for many families this is; an inconvenience that doesn’t get done, is done quickly in the car on the way to school or when is undertaken at home is an arduous task to say the very least.

Hopefully these five ideas given below will help the task become a more enjoyable experience and take very little time to prepare and at no additional cost to yourself.


  • Hangman

Use the child’s words to play hangman. By doing this, the child is having to think carefully about the letters in each word and the order in which they go. Have the list in front of the person in control of the board so that the child is spelling it correctly, but the other person can’t just immediately guess the word from reading the list.


  • Make a word search

Make a grid each that is roughly 10 squares by 10 squares depending on the length of words the child is learning. Each of place the spellings in the grid; each word has to be in a straight line though it can up or down, forwards or backwards, left or right. You then exchange grids and seek out the other person’s words. This can be done one way, with just you creating a word search for your child to solve.


  • Snakes and ladders

Again make a grid, this time roughly 6 by 5. Write one word on various squares around the grid and roughly 4 snakes and 4 ladders in various places around the board. As with the traditional games you move around the board going up the ladders and down the snakes. This time however, each time you land on the word you need to write it down, spelling it correctly.


  • Noughts and crosses

Again this game is like any other game of noughts and crosses, except in each position on the grid is a number. Each number relates to one of the spellings. As you choose your number, the other person will tell you the word that this number relates to. You then have to try and spell the word correctly.

  • Battleships

I hope I have saved the best until last. You each have two boards with 1-9 across the bottom and a-I up the side. Place the words in the grid, one letter in each square and again, the words must go in a straight line. Then, taking it in turns, choose a co-ordinates to try and find where the other person has placed their words. The first person to find all the other persons words wins.

There are several reasons why it is beneficial to present your child’s spellings as games:

  1. If it is fun, hopefully your child will be more receptive to taking part
  2. Each time you play a different game, you are creating a different memory. The wider range of memories you have the more likely it is that you will be able to recall the relevant information when it is needed.
  3. We all have different learning styles; visual, audio or kinaesthetic or a combination of 2 or more. Again, the more variety of games we play, the more likely you are to cater towards the learning style of that particular child, again helping them to recall the information when required.

This is the philosophy upon which I have built my company Starr Tutoring Ltd. If you are interested in more ideas on creating a relaxed environment when working with your child, why not sign up to my blog or get in touch and I will send you a weekly email offering you techniques that you can use to support your child at home?

I hope you have found these ideas useful, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about your own experiences as well by leaving your comments in the comments box. Thank you in advance.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends.

I set Starr Tutoring Ltd up in 2012 and we have gone from strength to strength during that time. My background was predominately working in early years and special needs, in particular dyslexia where a varied, interactive approach to learning is highly regarded. My opinion was, why couldn’t you use the benefits of this style of learning with everyone. If you are relaxed, you are more susceptible to learning and retaining the information, rather than in a tense situation where you are feeling on edge, and often to nervous to remember what you are being told.


5 simple ways to boost a child’s confidence and improve learning


How can we help the reluctant learner become a confident learner and boost their abilities and enthusiasm at the same time?

When you’re good at something you attack it with enthusiasm and confidence.

The reverse is true when you doubt your own ability. You put it off as much as possible and when you do finally have to get on with it, it is done with trepidation and reluctance.

This has consequences on a person’s ability to learn. The learner, who is confident and willing to give things ago, is far more likely to make progress than the reluctant learner who implores that their turn will never arise:

Let’s start with the Chinese proverb

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”.

Loosely translated this means, tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, but it’s not until I have ago that I will actually understand. This I think is the underlying philosophy for all the points to come.


Make learning fun.

Each week the child brings home a list of, shall we say 10 spellings? They dutifully sit at the table and strive to learn them using the read, cover, write, check method promoted by schools. They run through them the first time and much to their dismay, only a couple are right. They try again and maybe one or two more are right, but others might be wrong and the “Why am I doing this, I never get them all right anyway?” mentality sets in.

Let’s try a different approach.

Is there a method you could use to make the experience into a fun one? I will use a child’s weekly spellings here as an example, but this can be applied to almost anything.

The parent suggests to the child they have a game of hangman. I tell you what, how about we use your spellings as some inspiration?

Already, the mind-set is different. This sounds like fun and someone is going to be participating in the activity with me. I’m good at hangman and I might win!

Playing hangman helps the child look at the individual letters in the word and the order they go in. It is also creating a different form of memory, so when the child needs to recall the information on how to write a specific word, they are more likely to be able to do so. There is no time consuming preparation in this game, but it is one that can be enjoyed together. Now hopefully, when the child sits down to do the “read, cover, write, check” they are already familiar with the words and how they are spelt and suddenly it isn’t such an arduous task.

Hangman isn’t the only game that can be played, there are many, if you want some ideas of others, please get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.

Let them win.

Sometimes don’t be in such a hurry to be the best. Yes, you must feel on top of the world, but when someone is struggling and it is your place to try and support them, let them do as well or better than you once in a while.

To beat someone who is their teacher, their parent, or a role model, will boost confidence no end and in the process encourage that person to want to try again. Maybe I will win again, maybe I won’t but it doesn’t matter quite so much because I won last time.

This follows on from above in many respects. If you are the one at school who always gets the lowest results, comes last in every contest or struggles with most things think how low your moral must be.

Use praise and rewards

Praise people when they do well, even if it’s not a huge achievement in the eyes of others, for them this could be a huge milestone they’ve finally achieved.

Don’t be patronising though, that’s counterproductive…

When working with children use stickers, certificates and let them know you have commented on it to their parents, other teachers, etc. whatever it takes to help the child recognise how they have succeeded in making progress

We all love to hear when we’ve done well. Some people hear it all the time; others feel that they never hear it and what they do well it goes unrecognised.


Start on the ‘easy’ side of things and progress slowly

Maybe this is one of the most important considerations.

Start at a level that the child is already comfortable with. Ok, you may feel you are wasting time and time is important, but remember the aim here is to boost the child’s confidence and enthusiasm to learn.

Starting with something that is beyond them is simply going to make them feel more of a failure and if the foundations aren’t securely in place, what is to come in the future will only crumble.

If you start with something that you know the child is already fairly confident with you can reinforce their ability from the outset. Show them what they are capable of and build on this knowledge.

Then once each step is confidently secured, take a step forward. Move too quickly and the child will once again start to flounder as things become too daunting, but having said that, as confidence builds so will a child’s enthusiasm and their desire to progress will increase with it and before long this child will be as confident as the others in their group.

Remember, once the child’s confidence has increased, their willingness to have ago will dramatically improve as well.

These are just five of the techniques we use at Starr Tutoring Ltd to support confidence and willingness to have a go and learn for both the young and old.


I hope this has given you food for thought, but if you want more ideas or guidance as a parent or childcare professional, please do subscribe to our blog or get in touch and ask to receive the emails we send out each week offering techniques to support your child at home with their maths and English.

We would love to help. If you have any feedback, opinions or comments, please do comment below, we are always looking for new ideas and to hear about how you put these ideas into practice and the difference it made to your child.




Adding and subtracting: Positive and negative numbers

Adding and subtracting: Positive and negative numbers made simple

I’ve found using the weather is the easiest way to explain positive and negative numbers.

When the weather has been hot like it has in the last few days the number is in the positives, for example 27 degrees.


If today the temperature was set to get hotter (by 5 degrees) it would be the equivalent of adding a positive:



If the weather was set to cool down by 5 degrees it would be the equivalent of subtracting 5:

27-5 =22


This is fairly straight forward. The problems seem to start when we delve into the negative numbers.

If the weather was -27 degrees instead of plus 27 the following rules would apply:


Today the weather is -27 degrees but it is set to get 5 degrees warmer. The sum would be:

-27 + 5

This means because we are adding to a negative the number is getting close to zero.

By doing this it appears the number is actually getting smaller rather than bigger

-27+5 = -22

But if you understand that when the weather has been bitterly cold, by adding a few degrees of warmth isn’t enough to regard it as warm it sort of makes a bit more sense… I hope.

Another way of thinking about it is in terms of lending someone some money.

Imagine I lent someone £27. They then gave me £5 back.

They still owe my £22. Although the debt has reduced in size the amount owed is still in the negatives.

If I had lent someone (or borrowed) £27 but then borrowed an additional £5 the debt would be getting bigger, moving what I owed away from zero:

-£27-£5 = -£32


The one thing to remember though that if you have 2 negatives together they counteract each other and become a positive:

27 – -5 becomes 27+5 taking our answer to 32


I always think of a negative telling you to change direction.

Using a picture of a thermometer or a number line is something I always find helpful in working out positive and negative numbers as it makes the process of recognising the effect the actions have on the numbers.



5 ways to help your child learn whilst playing noughts and crosses


Who would have thought that with some very small amendments noughts and crosses could be made into an educational (but still fun!) game?


Do you find helping your child to revise or learn new things can be hard work? You want to make it fun for them but you’re not too sure how?

I want to show you how you can support your child with learning:

  1. their times tables,
  2. forming letters or numbers correctly
  3. extending their vocabulary,
  4. learning definitions,
  5. spellings,
  6. translating

through this one simple game.


The basic principle of how you play this game will remain the same throughout.

Draw yourself a grid consisting of 2 horizontal lines which are crossed by 2 vertical lines:



The game is meant for 2 players.

One of you will be a nought; the other player will be a cross.

Take it in turns to draw your nought or cross in the square with the intention of being the first to get a line of 3 either: diagonally, vertically or horizontally.

The first person to achieve this wins.



In this version of the game you need to decide which times table you are multiplying by before you start.

You now play the game as you would in the traditional method, however, before you can claim your square you need to multiply the number in it by your chosen times table.

For example supposing we have chosen to multiply by 8.

Use noughts and crosses to test your child's knowledge


If I wanted to go in the top left hand space and there was a number 11 written in it, I would have to work out the answer to 11 x 8 before I can write my cross in the gap.

Although I’ve suggested using times tables here, you could insert any sum into the square to be solved, I’ve put anything from making simple number bonds to 10, 20 or 100 to placing a simultaneous equation that needs solving in the square. Alternatively you could put in fractions that need converting to decimals or percentages or angles that need to be measured.

Adapt the game so that it is at a suitable level for your child or the child that you are working with.

Never make it too hard, a challenge is good but if it is too much of a challenge the child will lose heart and no longer want to participate.



Traditionally the purpose of the game has always been to use noughts and crosses to complete the square and achieve the line of three however this would be a good opportunity for children to practice writing digits that they struggle with. Many children get their b’s and d’s the wrong way round p’s and q’s are other letters that children find tricky to grasp or 5’s and S’s. Though these are the most common there are no doubt others letters which cause children issues.

So when you play the game, instead of using a nought or cross why not use these letters which are causing difficulties instead?

Be subtle about it. I might start with an “S” because that’s the first letter in our dog’s name “and perhaps you could start with a d because that’s the first letter of dog”.

Then in the next game I could perhaps do a “d” because we have a dog and you did d last time and “you could do “b” because your favourite colour is blue…


This will provide the necessary repetition needed to learn but in a less monotonous and more discrete way than endless worksheets and writing line after line of the letter.

rite animal is a bear”.

Before you start put a letter in each square of the grid (like you did for the times tables version but this time use letters instead).

Now pick a theme. It can be anything ranging from countries, food, animals or something that your child is learning about at school such as the personality traits of a character in a book they are reading as a class.

This time before you claim your square you need to think of a relevant word starting with that specific letter; for example if our theme was countries and the letters to choose from included an E, I would probably choose England as my country.

I could now put my nought or cross in the square containing an “E”.

If your child needs to think more creatively with their descriptive language, you could find a picture of something/someone and before claiming your square you would need to think of a work to describe the picture. You could put letters in there as a starting letter if you wished to make it more complicated or you could be allowed to place your word in any square.



Is there a short list of facts your child needs to learn:

  • Names of shapes
  • Dates in history
  • Scientific terms
  • Terminology used in a specific subject


Place one of the terms in each square.

This time before you are allowed to claim your square you have to give a definition to the meaning of the word located in that particular place.

As always the first person to get a line of 3 wins.

If your child brings home spellings each week to learn this can be an additional method for learning them.

This version of the game will be more appropriate as the child starts to become familiar with the words in the list.

For this version of the game a word from the spelling list needs to be written in the square before it can be claimed, if the child is struggling offer guidance but try not to do it for them.

Alternatively, if you child is still learning their phonics blends you could put one in each square and ask the child to think of a word containing that letter or blend.




This game could be done in two ways:

  1. You could write a word in each square which needs to be translated into the appropriate language before the square can be claimed
  2. You could have a picture in the square. You would need to name what this item is (in the appropriate language) before been able to claim the square.


I hope from here you can see how one simple game can be so easily adapted to help with so many areas of learning.

I am a firm believer that if you are enjoying yourself you are inevitably more relaxed. If you are relaxed you are more susceptible to taking in new information.

The point of noughts and crosses is that it’s a game and games are supposed to be fun. Please remember this as it will help the child’s confidence and enthusiasm to participate.

In this respect I think we’re all the same: if we’re enjoying ourselves we will show more enthusiasm and a greater willingness to get involved and learn.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, if you did please share it with your friends. I’d love to hear your comments below. Thank you for your support and for helping me spread the idea that learning should be an enjoyable experience for our children. As you write your letters down, say it out loud to reinforce the letter your writing.