Can you test Rocket Math orally?

Students with difficulty writing can take Rocket Math tests orally.

Rachel writes:
Hi Don,
My seven year old daughter has dyslexia and dysgraphia, and perhaps some ADD/ADHD. I’ve been wondering if I could test Rocket Addition or Subtraction with her orally while we are working on her writing speed? We homeschool, so I would be doing it with her one-on-one anyway. If doing it orally is possible, then how do I calculate the number she should be expected to answer correctly in a minute? Her Rapid Automatic Naming rate is quite slow. Would that factor in? Also, should I go back to addition, or start with subtraction since that is what we are working on now? I hadn’t planned to move past addition until she had all her facts memorized, but when we had her tested for learning disabilities, the consultant suggested to let her move forward with concepts while still working on facts. Thank you for your help.

P.S. I got a universal subscription to Rocket Math and started with Rocket Writing for Numerals since her writing rate was way too slow to continue with facts. I would like to continue with Rocket Writing for Numerals because I see the value in gaining automaticity in writing numerals.

Dr. Don answers:
Can you test Rocket Math orally? Yes, you can. When you give the one-minute test have your daughter simply tell you the answer to the items in the test. She does not have to read the problems, just say the answers to the problems in order. The expectation is 40 problems in a minute because handwriting is not an issue. Once she says the answer to 40 problems in a minute she has passed that level.

By the way, if you are practicing with her there might be a temptation to keep practicing for a long period of time. Please don’t. No more than about 3 minutes at a time is optimal. You can take a 15 minute break and then do another 3 minute session, but don’t ever go over 5 minutes at a time. It is very hard mental work and needs to be done in short segments or it will become very punishing AND her performance will begin to deteriorate.

I recommend mastering addition before beginning subtraction–because the two are so close. Doing both at the same time will cause proactive and retroactive inhibition (a special kind of confusion). See my blog on that. If you are in the middle of subtraction already, stay in that operation. If you haven’t started subtraction, don’t until addition is mastered (passing Level Z!). Yes, move on with concepts. Concepts would be other things like how to figure out subtraction problems with counters, or how to borrow. Memorizing subtraction facts is not a concept, it’s a skill, so you should wait on that!

Interesting that you bring up her Rapid Automatic Naming. It is my opinion that Rapid Automatic Naming is a trainable skill as well as handwriting speed. Much easier for some students–who need little training–than it is for others, but trainable nonetheless. She probably will take more practice to get to the level of automaticity that is more easily reached by others, but that doesn’t mean it is not achievable. What’s more, since automaticity with math facts is necessary to allow her to concentrate on higher order issues in math, she has to reach the same level of automaticity as others, so she can concentrate, even if it does take longer to get there.

This same principle applies in other tool skills such as decoding (or typing) as well. Just because it is more work for a child to come to automaticity in decoding does not change the fact that automaticity in decoding is a necessary prerequisite for full comprehension of what is being read. It took me many hours of extra practice after school to become as automatic at touch typing as the girls in my typing class-but I still had to reach the same milestones or I wouldn’t be able to touch type today.

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