Not meeting benchmarks: what should it mean?
When it comes to learning math facts, most students have had no opportunity to learn them in a systematic way. Unless they have had an extraordinary school or an unusual teacher they have not received structured, systematic learning opportunities to memorize math facts. After three decades working in schools across the country, I know this to be the case. Without systematic practice and effort, students will not meet math fact benchmarks. They won’t meet the Common Core expectation that students will “know [math facts] by memory.” Whose fault is that? It is not the student’s fault, nor the parent’s fault. So “not meeting benchmark” should mean that here is an area where the school needs to provide some intervention to build fluency.
Are you certain your fluency intervention is effective?
The teacher and the school have an obligation to provide an intervention that is effective. Some so-called “interventions” do not reliably produce increased fluency. An essential part of using an intervention is to measure its effectiveness. [That’s why IEP goals are supposed to have measurable short-term objectives!] The best way to measure the effectiveness of a fluency intervention is with timed, curriculum-based fluency assessments.
If you measure the same way for the same amount of time, you can see if fluency is increasing. You can see that the student’s fluency is increasing if the student can complete more items during the timed test each time you measure. If the vast majority of all of the students improve in fluency, then you can be certain that the intervention is effective. The graph above shows that for Multiplication, 23,540 students have increased in fluency as they worked through the Rocket Math Online Game. See evidence from all 16 Learning Tracks here.
Rocket Math Online Game is effective
As students work through the levels in each Learning Track in the Rocket Math Online Game, they are tested after completing the first level (A), then after completing 33% at level I, and then after completing 66% at level R, and then after they finish at level Z. Each test is a 1-minute fluency test of a random selection of facts taught in that Learning Track. Therefore, the scores are comparable. When the number goes up at each point in the curriculum, you can be sure that students are increasing in fluency. The chart to the right shows site-wide data. You can see students improve on average as they work through the Learning Tracks in the Online Game. You would not expect students to meet benchmarks until they have completed Set Z in the Learning Track.
Math fact fluency benchmarks in the Online Game: 16/minute in addition and subtraction.
The 1-minute RACEs in the Rocket Math Online Game are a good way to measure math fact fluency. On average students exceed 16 per minute correct at Set Z and the average at the beginning is much less. So a reasonable benchmark is 16 correct problems per minute.
The teacher can assign a 1-minute RACE at any time and the student will need to do it upon their next login. The results will be available in the Review Progress screen as well as be exported from the button that gives “Results from Assigned races.” However, the best measure of whether a student can meet the benchmark is after Set Z, when they have completed the Learning Track. You can see the score by clicking on the pink button for exporting “Results from Scheduled Races.”
You can see the screenshot of an example of the results from scheduled races for all 16 Learning Tracks across our website. You can see the Account Average shows improvement at each level. Those scores after Set Z show that nearly all students are proficient by the end of the Learning Track. So we know that the Online Game is an effective intervention. But there’s a catch. At the Level Z test data there are no scores for students who had not completed Set Z in Multiplication. Students have to actually play the game in order to learn.
Students must participate to learn: monitor and recognize effort
Assigning an effective intervention will not help unless students are engaged and participate. Instead of reporting on benchmarks of academic achievement, why not report on benchmarks of effort? Each time students login and complete a session (five, ten or fifteen minutes in length) on the Online Game their session is recorded towards their effort score for the last 14 days. Students should complete a session every day in school and some at home for homework. In the effort rating system every four sessions completed earns a star, so 15 completed sessions over the last 14 days earned the student to the left 3 and 1/2 stars.
If you monitor the effort scores and recognize students who are putting forth great effort, you’ll get more students participating. Completing 12 sessions in the last two weeks is good effort and earns 3 stars. 16 sessions over the last two weeks would earn 4 stars!
You might consider giving out Star Effort Awards (available in the teacher section of the site) once a month for students who are putting forth super-star effort. If you reward effort, we guarantee you’ll get achievement. Soon after doing that, you’ll probably have to start awarding Learning Track certificates for students who are completing Learning Tracks. All awards are available on the admin page on Tab (K) in the main rainbow navigation bar.