Rocket Math now has added an Online Game to its tried-and-true Worksheet Program. Customers ask, “Which should I use? Should I use both?”
Dr. Don’s answer is “Yes, I do recommend using both. As that opinion may appear self-serving, here’s why.”
1) Online Game is an easier route to math fact fluency.
Most students begin passing levels in the Online Game right away. They find it quicker and easier and can sometimes pass more than one level in a day. This gives the students a taste of success. The Online Game helps them realize they can learn facts and make progress almost from the first day. Students are then more willing to do the Worksheet Program as well. Rarely, there are a few younger students who cannot input answers within 3 seconds. They won’t be able to pass levels and will have to start over many times on the Online Game. When monitoring them in the Online Game, such students will have difficulty scores over 3. If that’s the case, the Worksheet Program is more flexible, and they may prefer that. But for most students with difficulty scores below 2 in the Online Game, they will require a lot less practice to pass levels with the Online Game than in the Worksheet Program. That means it will be easier and quicker to learn the facts.
2) The Online Game is easier for teachers to implement.
The Online Game is easier for teachers to get started using. Teachers don’t have to print out worksheets, maintain files and organize student pairs, so they practice with the Online Game. It is, therefore, easier to implement. Less than enthusiastic teachers, who might not start the worksheets, will at least start doing the Online Game. After they see the success of the Online Game and the students’ enthusiasm, they will be more willing to do the Worksheet Program.
3) The Online Game provides consistent quality of practice.
The Worksheet Program is dependent upon the quality of practice in each classroom. Quality of practice is dependent upon the skill of the teacher in teaching routines and getting compliance from the students in following procedures. Therefore, the quality of learning varies, whereas with the Online Game the quality of practice is consistent. I have had teachers report that they are seeing, in daily lessons, better fluency in facts than they saw previously with the Worksheet Program. The teachers who say that, are telling me they did not get students to practice well in their classroom. With less skilled teachers the Online Game is definitely better. The only variable with the Online Game is whether teachers give students the time to practice and if they can effectively assign homework. Both of those are issues with the Worksheet Program as well.
4) The Online Game checks every single fact for speed of response.
The Worksheet Program bases individual goals upon writing speed, so we are basically demanding that students write answers to math facts as fast as they can. That’s a high bar and requires a lot of practice. The bar is not as high with the Online Game–as everyone has the same 3 second expectation for a one digit answer, and 4 seconds for a two digit answer. If students are using a touch screen and are 8 years old, that’s not as demanding as it could be. That’s why they go through the levels faster. However, every single fact is checked for time, which we can’t do with the Worksheet Program. Because the Online Game checks the speed of response to every single fact, it’s more rigorous that way.
5) The Online Game is easier for parents to support.
Both Worksheet Program and Online Game can (and should!) be done at home. The Worksheet Program’s homework component is for students to bring home the worksheet they tested that day and practice with a parent or sibling, the same way they practiced in school. That takes someone’s time. The Online Game only requires access to a device (Rocket Math works well on parents’ phones!), and once the student logs in, the computer does the correcting and rewarding. The Online Game is easier for parents to support and gets a foot in the door. Once they see their child’s success and enthusiasm, parents are more willing to do the Worksheet Program. Which will provide more and better learning.
6) Worksheet Program has higher demands for math fact fluency.
Compared to the Online Game, the Worksheet Program is a bit harder to pass a level. By basing individual goals on the Writing Speed Test, we can be sure that students are answering a large number of facts as fast as they can write. This is a high bar. Generally, we see that students have to practice with their partners more time before they pass they pass a level, so students learn facts better with it. They are more solid in their knowledge of facts when they are done with an operation like multiplication in the Worksheet Program than they are if they just run through multiplication in the Online Game. This is a reason not to do the Online Game only
. Of course, students are even stronger in their facts when they practice with both.
7) Saying the facts aloud in the Worksheet Program develops an important learning channel.
The purpose of learning math facts is to make it easier for students to learn and do basic computation. The Worksheet program develops verbal memory for facts. In the Worksheet Program students practice by saying the facts aloud along with the answer, without hesitation. For example, “Nine times seven is sixty-three.” Repeating these over and over day after day, creates a verbal chain in memory. Because of this verbal chain, once the fact is learned, forever after, when saying the fact to oneself, “Nine times seven is….” the answer, “Sixty-three,” pops into mind, unbidden. That’s automaticity and that’s the goal. This is another channel other than what is developed in the Online Game.
8) Writing the facts daily in the Worksheet Program will generalize to written computation more readily.
Math work is written, so the Worksheet Program (which is also written) is closer to how math facts will be used. Each day students get into the habit of doing math as quickly as they can. They develop the expectation that they should do math quickly. That means this program will generalize better to computation assignments. It will take longer to pass a Learning Track, but when they are done, you will see a bigger benefit to students doing math assignments when they finish the Worksheet Program than with the Online Game. Which is yet another reason to do both programs.
9) The Worksheet Program provides computation practice to maintain fluency.
After students learn the facts, the most important thing is to provide students with practice using the facts in computation. Many of today’s math programs have very little to no computation practice built into the program. The Rocket Math Worksheet Program has learning tracks that provide short 3-minute daily practice assignments in computation. The Learning Computation tracks have assessment so students can be placed at the right level and can gradually improve their computation skills as well as cement in those math facts so they can maintain fluency.
10) Using both the Worksheet Program & Online Game develops math fact fluency twice.
Because students are moving through the two programs at different rates, they will get two passes at learning the facts. That means they are getting twice as much learning. The facts will be known better and more readily called to mind during computation when both programs are used.