Is 80 problems in 2 minutes appropriate for 2nd graders?

Our Writing Speed Test sets very realistic goals for students.

Principal Linda writes:
We are using Rocket Math in 2nd grade. I am in a high achieving school district. My second grade teachers feel that there is no way a second grader can complete 80 math problems in 2 minutes. We had our highest achieving student (doing 4th grade math) she could only answer 76 problems.
How was the 80 problems in 2 minutes derived? Is this appropriate for 2nd graders?
I am having a hard time convincing some teachers about even doing TIMED math facts tests. They feel it creates too much anxiety for kids. Thoughts??

Dr. Don answers:

Absolutely your teachers are right! Very rare to find a 2nd grader who could write the answers to 80 problems in two minutes–even after completing Rocket Math! The number of items on the page is NOT the expectation. The purpose of the two-minute timing is to monitor progress, to be graphed and and to see if over time–over weeks–the students are improving in the number of problems they can answer in 2 minutes. Only give that test once a week or once every two weeks while they are doing Rocket Math daily. If they are learning facts by practicing with each other on a daily basis, after a week or two most students should be able to answer one or two more facts during the 2 minute timing than they did the last time they were tested. That’s all we are looking for in progress monitoring–an upward trend on the individual student graph.

Please look carefully at my site for information about expectations which should always be based on how fast students can write rather than being the same for all second graders. Nowhere does it ever say 80 problems in two minutes as an expectation! In fact, we leave the vertical axis on the Individual Student graph open, so that the teacher sets the bottom number of the vertical axis just below what the student does on their first timing. We don’t specify what students should be able to do. All we are looking for is individual improvement. If most of the students are improving, and their graphs shown an upward trend, then the program is working!

On the daily One-Minute timing, there are only facts the student has mastered, and there, students are expected to answer as many facts in a minute as they can write, based on the Writing Speed Test. For most second graders that is something less than 40, but it varies by student. Hopefully your teachers are setting expectations based on the Writing Speed Test. Teachers who do not use the Writing Speed Test to establish individualized goals and instead demand the same thing of all students in the grade without regard for writing skill would be harming the children and violating the directions on how to use the program.

Some schools require benchmarks which I did post on the home page. “Click here to see my basic math fact recommended benchmarks to use with Rocket Math to implement the Common Core.” However, those should be lowered for students who cannot write that quickly according to their Writing Speed Test.

Please share my recent blog about the value of orally practicing in pairs vs taking timed tests. “Does research show student achievement increases from taking timed drills?” The short answer is no. It is the orally practicing in pairs that helps students learn. The timed tests are there only to confirm that they are learning. Some teachers even allow students to choose when they want to take the timed test, e.g., to wait until they have practiced enough days to feel that they have a shot at passing. That is a great way to give students control over their experience with Rocket Math. I hope this helps!

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