## Monday, October 26, 2015

### Math Fact Mastery for Every Student

Something that I always struggled with was how to teach my students their math facts. In 3rd grade, I was responsible for their multiplication and division facts, but many came to me not knowing their addition or subtraction facts. It put me in a hard place. How do I teach my students ALL the facts for the four operations in one year?

I tried many different approaches: worksheets of 100 problems printed off the internet, flashcards, timed tests, and a program called Rocket Math. Rocket Math was an interesting approach. It was very scheduled and regimented. The students would get a card with four new facts on it. They would practice saying those out loud a certain amount of times on their own and then with a partner. Then, they would take a timed test. If they passed, they got a different card with new facts to memorize the next time. The facts were necessarily related to each other and it took a lot of prep work. We had to beg for parent volunteers to come check these daily tests and switch out all the cards and practice sheets for each student. Still, I was willing to do this if my kids learned their facts. At the end of the year, I noticed that there was no major improvement. Those kids who knew their facts in the beginning, still knew them. Those kids who struggled, still struggled. So what to do?

My teaching partner had a really strong feeling that students would do well if they could see how the facts within fact families were related. We wanted our kids to see that these facts are not just arbitrary numbers to memorize, but that there are groups of related facts that make sense. So we came up with a plan.

Step 1:
We created flashcards that had the 3 numbers that went with the fact family. We didn't put signs in on purpose. When we practiced these, our students would says "two plus three is five. three plus two is five, five minus three is two, five minus two is three. Two, three, five. Two, three five." This may sound tedious (and it does take longer than normal flashcards), but it worked!! Our kids began seeing these numbers together and we were practicing two operations at once. We practiced these for 5-10 minutes a day and it worked miracles. We did things like silly voices, whispers, etc. to make it more fun.

Step 2:
We created Mighty Math. This was our own fact fluency program to help our kids in ways we hadn't found anywhere else. This is the general idea we came up with when creating our order:

Teaching addition and subtraction in this order has been empirically shown to improve learning outcomes (see link for more details: http://www.heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources/e02963/oconelladd.pdf ). Students begin with 0’s and 1’s because these link to their counting        experiences. Sums can easily be found by “counting on”. Again, subtraction facts are included on each page so students begin to see the connection between the two. Ten as an addend is explored next to help students with their automaticity. This is a critical skill as students can use +10 facts as a way to simplify other facts that are near ten ( 8 + 4 is simplified to 10 + 2). Doubles are taught next to help with automaticity and recall on more complex facts. Next comes making ten. These facts also help build automaticity with more complex facts later on. After these facts, each fact from 2-9 is covered individually. Then, as an option at the end, a making 9’s set is included. This set will help students when they need to learn their 9’s multiplication facts. (9 x 3 can be thought of as one less than 3 which is 2. 2 plus what number equals 9? 7. The answer is 27.)

Students are given a timer Monday-Thursday as part of their math routine. They are timed for two minutes. In those two minutes they must complete the addition side and the subtraction sides. You can have the students trade them and grade them or you can collect them and grade them yourself. Answer keys have been provided.

We also created corresponding tests that the students take on Fridays. For example, if they have been on add/subtract 2’s for their timers all week, they will take the add/subtract 2’s test on Friday. If they pass this test with 100%, they move on to the next level of timer. I print the tests front to back and time each test for two and a half minutes.

I'm telling you this changed my fact fluency teaching. My kids KNEW their facts. The 4th grade teachers actually came down the next year and complimented us on how well that first group of kids knew their stuff.

You can grab my Fact Fluency Bundle here and try it in your room. I promise you, you won't regret it!

1. Are the vertical sheets or the horizontal sheets the actual test? If it's the horizontal, is are they given 5 total minutes for the 100 problems? I love the program and have already purchased the program!

2. Hi Tresa!
The vertical sheets are the 2 minute timers that I gave Mon.-Thurs. The horizontal sheets, when printed front to back, are given on Fridays and they are timed for 5 minutes.

Thanks!

3. I ordered this and am not seeing the tests.

1. Did you buy it from Tpt? The tests are included in the zip file. If you save it to your desktop first before opening it, that can help solve downloading issues.

Thanks!

2. This comment has been removed by the author.

4. So when do you start the multiplication/division set? Right after they finish the addition/subtraction set or do you wait? We do 3 chapters of multiplication before we start our 2 division so I'm trying to figure out if I would need to alternate the multiplication and division chapters when using this. We start multiplication in the third chapter of our book, so we wouldn't have long for them to do the addition/subtraction. Thanks!

1. I did start immediately after the add/subtract. The more you can teach multiply/divide in conjunction, the deeper the understanding of the relationships are.

5. I'm not an elementary teacher but thinking of purchasing this for my daughter who struggles with math facts. Any suggestions on how to adapt this for remedial work?

1. Hi Serena Rae,
I have had many parents buy this to work with their own children and have found great success with it. I would do exactly what I described above, just one-on-one. Small practice sessions seem to work best and you could use a sticker chart (or something similar) to track her progress and increase motivation. You could even do each test with her (she does one, you do your own) so the focus is more on learning the facts and not the fact that she doesn't know her facts. Does that make sense?

Hopefully those are some ideas you find useful!
Cassie

6. I have read a lot of research that shows timed tests shouldn't be used. What are your thoughts on that?

1. Hi Molly,
I've heard and read things on that too. Depending on the student or the class, I have done not timed tests. The timed test is to prove fluency because students need to be able to provide the facts quickly and accurately to be considered proficient. However, the timed test can cause stress and anxiety for some students. If this is the case, I see no problem in removing the timing element. A right answer, even done slowly, is still a right answer. I have also lengthened the time on the test for some students by a few minutes. Either this was a provision in their IEP or I just felt it was the right choice for that student based on my interactions with them. It's really up to you and your knowledge of your students to do what works best with them.

I hope that helps!

7. Hi There!

At what point do you just "move on" from the addition and subtraction and go onto multiplication and division? I would say about...90% of my class is ready for multiplication and division. Do I keep them on the review timers/tests while we wait for the others to catch up, or push forward (like use the multiplication and division flashcards, etc)? What would your suggestion be?

1. Hi Clara,
I would definitely push forward if most of your class is ready to move on. Then, whenever you can (small group, one-on-one, if a parent volunteers, etc.) pull those kids who are struggling back and work on addition and subtraction. They will benefit from the extra practice and it will help them catch up.

Hope that helps!