A teacher asks:
Our teachers just had parent/teacher conferences and had a few parents concerned about their student “not passing” levels in Rocket Math. The students AND parents of these students are having a hard time with their child struggling on Rocket Math when it is apparent that they “know” their facts. Their parents don’t know why they should have to have the speed when they clearly know their facts and these students are truly some of the top students (95th%ile on state standards). Although it has given those students some perspective on what it feels like and how you handle not accomplishing something with ease. If they score 60 or above on their two minute timings consistently, should they be required to pass all levels? What would be your recommendation to do with these students or tell their parents?
Dr. Don answers:
One of the most important benefits of Rocket Math is that it teaches students the value of hard work. By practicing orally with their partner each day, and doing the correction procedure properly, students find they can learn math facts to the level of automaticity–to where they can answer them instantly without thinking and without hesitation. That takes some practice and work, even for gifted students. But everyone can do it with enough practice. Although it is only ten minutes a day, the work of Rocket Math is very important in teaching students the value of their own efforts. Students learn that even if they can’t pass initially, if they practice every day (and maybe some more at home with a parent or sibling), they get to the point that they can answer those problems as fast as they can write. When they achieve this they are justly proud of themselves, because they know they earned the achievement through their own efforts. Learning this lesson is quite possibly even more important than the math facts themselves. This is an important lesson for life–that you benefit from working hard at something even if it doesn’t come easily.
The only way you could take that away from those students is by rewarding some of your brightest students with the same accomplishment without having to work through the levels. You can use the placement probes to determine if students even need an operation–they can “test-out” of the operation in the beginning of the year. But once you have determined that students need to work through the operation, the worst thing you could do to the class would be to suddenly announce that some students have “passed” without doing the work. That would make everyone else feel like a dummy for having to work at it.
I will write a separate post on the things you can do for students who get stuck and can’t pass in six tries. However, I want to stress that a key outcome of Rocket Math is learning the value of hard work in school. Don’t do anything to undermine that.