Counting on fingers–how do you stop it?

Here’s a set of very smart questions from a customer, followed by my answer:
“I really like your practice procedure, but I’m wondering how you recommend ensuring that students aren’t counting on their fingers or trying to figure out problems during testing. I’ve been doing general timed tests with my class, and I tell students to skip problems they can’t quickly answer rather than try to figure them out. Still, there are always those students who don’t listen, and I see them skip counting on their fingers. How do you handle this issue during your testing? Are students allowed to skip around during a timed test?”

These are exactly the right questions. Rocket Math is designed specifically to prevent these problems.

  • First of all, Rocket Math Daily One-Minute timings are composed entirely of problems the students do know, so they don’t need to “skip problems you don’t know.” In fact, in the daily one-minute tests if students skip any problems they are counted as wrong, because it is evidence that they don’t know it. You can see the sequence in which multiplication facts are learned here. Set A in Multiplication, for example, it is composed entirely of 1 x numbers in which the answer is the number. There’s no need to finger count. There’s no need to skip around. Each set then only adds two facts and their reverses at most. Set B in Multiplication only adds 2×2, 2×3, and 3×2 to those ones facts. So by the time the student finishes practicing, even the first day, he/she should be able to answer all the facts on that day’s One Minute Timing without having to skip count on his/her fingers.
  • The other part of the equation in Rocket Math is that we set the goal individually for each student based on the Writing Speed Test. We set their goal as fast as their little fingers can carry them! There is no time to stop and count on fingers or stop writing answers to look for problems they like better. So students will NOT pass if they are doing any of those things. Of course, it’s up to you as the teacher to warn students ahead of time, “There is not enough time to take breaks, erase answers, or count on your fingers. If you do those things you won’t pass!”  And of course, students are very motivated to pass levels and move up the Rocket Chart.
  • Probably most importantly is making sure that when students practice with each other they follow the correction procedure for all hesitations. That way students learn they can (and must) answer the facts instantly when they know them. For the proper correction procedure See Letter O in our FAQs page.  Then read Letter P in our FAQs page “How do get my students to practice the right way?”

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