Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Basic" facts aren't "Easy"

We've been working hard on making sense out of numbers.  I tell parents at Back to School Night that students need to have their basic facts down because it will make math so much easier in their fourth grade year.

I'm always amazed at how many students still aren't confident in their addition and subtraction basic facts, even in fourth grade.  There is nothing more frustrating for a fourth grade teacher when we do 5 +7 with a "hmmm" and "ummm" and hiding our fingers under the table and then saying "12?" without any confidence at all.  Or the dreaded "11?"  I'm screaming in the inside because do you realize, fourth graders, that we need to master multiplication, and division, and fractions, and decimals this year?!?!  Plus the types of triangles and types of angles and measuring and adding angles?  There is no time for reteaching addition!  We need to add angle measurements.

So I read this {article from NCTM in their Teaching Children Mathematics journal (circa 2005).}

And hey, guess what?  That's totally normal for students to still struggle.

I am a flash card teacher.  I know some people really don't like to drill skills, but facts are one thing that I drill in.  I challenge the kids to beat me.  I'm super least to a 10 year old!  We make flash cards and keep them in our binder so they are with us all the time.  I stock up on flash cards in the dollar section of Target every year.  I have flash cards on rings hanging on the wall if they finish early in math.  We time ourselves and try to get faster.

I want them FAST.

For this reason, I start everyone in the class on XtraMath addition facts.  Sometimes parents look at my like "What?!?" when I tell them this.  Here's the thing- if your student isn't great at addition facts, they probably aren't going to pick up on multiplication right away either.  Let's go back and master the most basic of the basics.  Also, by starting with addition, I will hopefully build some confidence in those that need it because they feel better about addition.  Don't get me wrong- we are still multiplying during class, but their practice time is spent on what they need most.

XtraMath is set up to have students complete their basic facts in 3 seconds each, which has been researched and found to be the ideal amount of think time for a student to show basic face "mastery".  It's totally free and breaks it down in data format for teachers.  It doesn't have tons of bells and whistles and animated characters, which I actually really like about it.  Sometimes we just need to get down to business.

Some of my students are cruising through.  Once they can do all their addition facts in 3 seconds or less, it moves them to subtraction (then multiplication, and division).  When they have all that done, I bump them to 2.5 second mastery and have them start over.  And then 2 second mastery.  If they can do all their facts in 2 seconds or less then they test out of XtraMath and are good to go!  Those kids are usually the kiddos that are pretty good at math to begin with- usually about 5-6 students each year will pass every level!

I've used the XtraMath website for four years now and I still totally love that it gets my students on the computer and practicing facts.  Now I just need to train them to use the number pad instead of the numbers across the top of the keyboard.....

If I have students that master every level (1.5 seconds in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division is impressive for a fourth grader!) then I set a new challenge.

I love Kakooma for those students who have mastered their straight facts.  There's so many ways to use it- have the kids use the computer, grab the app for it, run off game "worksheets", or laminate game cards.

Kakooma Addition Sample

I have to keep these students focused and motivated in order to keep them involved in our math lessons.

The best part is, XtraMath and Kakooma are both totally free to use in the classroom and at home.

I make these part of my guided math center activities- they can do fact buddies, XtraMath/Kakooma, or grab a multiplication bump game to play during center time/math practice time.  I may rotate out the bump games after about 6 weeks, but the rest of the fact practice stays as a center activity all year long.

What do you use to keep your students motivated and learning those important facts?


1 comment:

  1. If you get a deck of playing cards, you can play math war. I use it for multiplication, but it can be done for addition/subtraction as well. Take out the K and J. Q becomes 0 and A becomes 1. Then the deck is split in half and each person gets a half. They count to three and throw down the top card. The first person to yell out the product gets the cards (or sum/difference depending on level).

    The only problem I have with this is that it takes more set up - teaching the game and making sure the partners are evenly matched. But my kids LOVE it!
    The Disneyfied Teacher