More or better practice: improve the quantity or the quality of practice

If student progress slows, you need to improve or increase practice.

Students need to practice daily to develop math fact fluency.  When students are seeing regular success in Rocket Math, they are motivated and want to do Rocket Math every day (if not more.)  This is how it should be.  Students love Rocket Math when the implementation is being done well enough so they are passing every few days.  If they start to complain about doing Rocket Math, then something is amiss–because they aren’t making enough progress to be motivated.  You need to correct your implementation BEFORE that happens.

Students should pass a level in no more than 6 days.  That’s the reason there is room for only six “tries” on the Rocket Chart.  If any of your students are going beyond six “tries” without passing, there needs to be an intervention.

When students don’t pass regularly, they get discouraged.  Teachers need to intervene to help students make regular progress. They don’t need to find a different way to practice like flashcards or something else.  They just need more practice or better quality practice.  For any student who is not passing in six days, the teacher or parent needs to either improve the quality of their practice or the amount of their practice–or possibly both.

BETTER: Intervene to improve the QUALITY of practice.

You can check on the quality by observing each student as he or she practices with the partner. Monitoring carefully during practice is the key! 

  • Is the student saying the whole problem and the answer aloud and loud enough for the partner to hear?
  • Is the partner correcting hesitations and correcting the right way?
See the top four questions on the Rocket Math 100 Point Observation form.  
  • You might have to change a struggling student to be paired with a more conscientious partner.
  • You might have to re-teach your class how they should be correcting hesitations- by requiring them to MODEL the correction procedures.
  • You may need to explain how important correcting hesitations is, and why it is helping your partner, not punishing him or her.
  • You might have to reward or recognize students who actually do corrections the right way with public praise or points or tickets, etc

MORE: Intervene to increase the QUANTITY of practice.

Some students need two practice sessions each day, what football teams call “2-a-days!”

If you see that students are practicing the right way, but still not making good progress, then they will need extra practice sessions.  Note that you can add the extra practice sessions without adding tests.  Just the oral practice is what is needed.
Don’t do marathon session though!  Unfortunately, you can’t just extend the time students practice much beyond three minutes per partner or they won’t stay on task.  But if you provide two or three sessions of three minutes in length during the day, the students will progress much faster.  Read “Motivating by creating success.”  Students who get extra services from Special Education or Title personnel will likely need and benefit from an extra practice session with them every day.
An intervention tip: Do an extra session daily where students can practice the test items (inside the box) orally as well.  This could make a big difference.
If students are succeeding and passing a level every few days, just the recognition of that on their Rocket Chart is plenty of motivation.  But when they aren’t passing they become discouraged.  Often teachers will change their rewards to boost motivation for passing levels in Rocket Math.  I think that’s great and we have a bunch of ideas on how to boost motivation. But, if students don’t think they can succeed it is very difficult to motivate them.  Therefore, your first thing to address is their level of success–by improving either the quality or the quantity of their practice.

***  Motivation is composed of the incentive and the belief that it can be done.***

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