Can we use Rocket Math worksheets at home?

A parent asks:

I am a parent of a second grader who struggles mightily with her math facts. Her school does not do Rocket Math, although other buildings in our district use your program. I would like to know if your math facts program is appropriate for me to buy to use at home with my daughter. Also, does the Rocket Math basic subscription contain the complete program that a classroom would get?

Dr. Don answers:

Yes, the Rocket Math worksheet program is appropriate to buy to use at home with your child. The basic subscription has everything a parent or classroom teacher needs to run the program. But…

That being said, a parent at home may want to consider using Rocket Math flashcards instead of the worksheets in the original Rocket Math program. Flashcards are designed for one-on-one where the worksheets are designed to run an entire class at the same time. You can download the Flashcard Directions for free–and I highly recommend you doing that, so you know exactly how to work with your child effectively to learn math facts from flashcards. I really like the watch-your-favorite-TV-show-together-and-do-flashcards-during-all-the-commercials plan.

If you are teaching your child math facts at home, you definitely wouldn’t want to work on more than one operation at a time; addition in first grade, subtraction next in second grade, multiplication in third, and division in fourth grade.

The practice procedures are very similar between the flashcards and the original worksheet program. In both cases the student is to read aloud the problems and say the answers from memory without hesitation. The person listening (tutoring) provides the same correction procedure–saying the correct fact and answer, having the student repeat the fact and the answer three times, then doing two more problems before revisiting the target fact (the one on which there was an error or hesitation). The difference is that in the worksheet program students are reading facts from the worksheet, while in the flashcard program the student is reading the facts off the flashcards.

With the worksheet program you will have to print out the worksheets, the writing speed test, the goal sheet and the rocket chart. Each time you give the student the one minute test (to see if they are ready to move on to the next sheet) you’ll use up that sheet and have to print a new one. When your student passes the set of facts on that sheet, you’ll need to print the worksheet for the next set. With the flashcards, no additional printing is required. That alone is reason to use flashcards in my mind.

There is one very special circumstance in which it might be important to use the original Rocket Math worksheets at home. If your child is using Rocket Math in school, AND if the program is not being run correctly, AND if your child is being frustrated–then you might want to get a subscription. Watch our YouTube video on how to tutor Rocket Math.

If you read the Rocket Math Directions FAQs, you will be able to discover what is wrong at school. It may be that not enough time is spent practicing, or practicing the right way. It may be that your child’s handwriting speed was not taken into account when setting their goals. It may be that your child’s student partner in school is not correcting errors or hesitations in the right way. In any case it would be very important to show your child that he or she CAN in fact learn math facts successfully (all children can) and to overcome the frustration that improper use of the program is causing.

So you can buy and use the original Rocket Math worksheet program at home, but think about whether flashcards would be easier than the worksheet program. Teachers can’t effectively use flashcards in their classrooms because they can’t monitor the learning of that many students at once without the testing procedure. But you can when you are home alone with one child at a time–so flashcards can work for you.

2 thoughts on “Can we use Rocket Math worksheets at home?

  1. My son currently is in second grade and uses Rocket Math in his school. He has been doing addition and is on Level “S”. Most of his class has moved onto subtraction and multiplication.
    My concern with him is where does this leave him next year in 3rd grade?? Is he left behind? He knows the addition facts orally but fails to meet his goal on the 1minute drills due to his anxiety and frustration with being timed. He struggles to move forward even though he knows his addition facts!
    With this scenario, how does Rocket Math help? How will he ever move on to learn subtraction and multiplication? He’s a smart kid but can’t seem to succeed with this method!
    Please help me to see otherwise!

    • Erica, I can see why you are frustrated. Students should not take more than three to five days to pass a level in Rocket Math and no more than a year to pass an operation such as addition. The rule is: If your child is frustrated by Rocket Math–it isn’t being done right! The school should not be complacent and should not leave your son to fall way behind his classmates. If a student takes longer than six days to pass a level I recommend that the school or the teacher should intervene. Interventions should happen in a matter of days, rather than allowing students to stall for weeks or months. You are writing in response to my post, so you know you can read the directions, even get the program and work with your son at home to help him. What interventions should be tried with your son?

      My first intervention would be to practice Level S test (inside the box) orally with your son in the evenings once or twice. If he has been on Level S for a long time, there are facts on the test that need review–through oral practice. Use the same correction procedure we recommend everywhere: if he makes any hesitation, give the correct problem and answer, have your son repeat it three times, then back up three problems and go again. A couple of days of that and he should pass handily at school.

      If that didn’t help your son pass in two days, my second intervention would be to watch your son take a written test and see what is going on, see if there is evidence of frustration, or anxiety, or if there are behaviors during testing that are interfering with good test results. If you want to send me video of your son taking the test at home, I could probably tell what is the issue that is holding him back. There may be some test-taking behaviors he can learn, such as not stopping during the test, or not erasing sloppy answers, which would improve his test results.

      The third intervention I would do is give the Level S test orally. There are a number of reasons a student might not be passing and I have blogged and have video clips on YouTube that address what to do with students who are “stuck.” You write that you know that he “knows his facts.” Probably because when you ask him a fact, he can answer it immediately, without having to stop and figure it out. If that is true he should be able to verbally tell you the answer (not read the problem, just say the answer) to 40 facts in a minute at Level S. You could test him at home to find out if he does know the facts at Level S. If he can orally answer 40 facts on the Level S test, he knows the facts well enough and should have passed. If he is not passing the written test even though he can verbally say the answer to 40 facts in a minute, then his writing goal is off for some reason. Another piece of data that would suggest his writing goal is off, is if he has been stalled at some rate of problems and hasn’t improved his rate for a week. That suggests that that number of facts (whatever it is) is all he can actually do, and his writing goals need to be revised down to the number he can write when taking a one-minute written test (assuming he is on a level on which he can verbally answer 40 problems in a minute). In a couple of places in the directions (FAQs), I explain that, so you can share with the teacher.

      What if, as you suggest, he is freezing up during the written test due to “anxiety and frustration with being timed?” The best way to overcome anxiety is to keep doing the thing that makes you anxious, which is why most students stop being anxious about Rocket Math after a couple of weeks. A fourth intervention would be to practice taking the test in writing–but untimed. If he completed all the items on the test several times at home, untimed, he would stop being so anxious about doing it under timed conditions. Most students also understand why they are being timed (to see if they know the facts without hesitation). He will not get unduly frustrated if you explain to him this is just a race and if he doesn’t give up he will keep getting better until he wins. Of course, if his writing goal is too high and he can’t possibly meet the goal, he will become frustrated.

      If your son cannot already orally say the answers to 40 problems on the Level S test in one minute, he needs some more practice. My fifth intervention would to practice with your son–be his partner. He may not have a conscientious partner at school and may not be getting the most out of his 2 minute practice time. I routinely find that when I practice with students (the right way with correcting hesitations as well as errors) even once, they suddenly pass or come very close. The quality of the practice is critical to learning to answer these facts without hesitation. If practice allows students to stop and figure out the fact every time they will take a very long time to get to knowing those facts instantly. If that is the case, if you practice orally with your son once or twice an evening at home, the right way, he will begin to pass every few days at school. He will finish addition this school year.

      In third grade I recommend that all students start multiplication at the same time even if they have not “finished” subtraction. Multiplication facts are far more important, so subtraction facts can wait. If you closely follow your son’s progress in learning multiplication facts with Rocket Math, you can intervene in time to make sure he does not get frustrated or fall behind. It should take him three to five days to pass a level, but no longer than that. With some extra practice at home you can be sure he will be successful. Knowing basic facts instantly will be very important for him, so don’t give up!

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