Students should be automatic with facts. How fast is automatic? Well, it depends on which research you read and timing methods. In general, students should be able to answer 40 math fact problems per minute. Read on to learn why and see timed math fluency expectations by grade level.

**Why Is Math Fact Fluency Important?**

Being able to recall math facts quickly and accurately is a critical skill for students as they progress through school. In the early grades, knowing the answers to math facts from memory serves as a foundation for more complex problem-solving. As students move on to higher grades, they will be expected to complete more difficult, multi-part math tasks. If students cannot quickly remember the answers to basic math facts by the time they reach these higher grades, it will interfere with their ability to concentrate on more advanced tasks. Students who must stop and think about, or count out, simple math facts get lost in the steps of multi-part, complex mathematic procedures. Not to mention the fact, that math work becomes a slow and onerous process when you have to look up or figure out most facts.

**What Is Math Fact Fluency?**

Knowing math facts from memory means being able to automatically recall the answers to these facts without hesitation. Stopping to figure it out by some method, is not recall and will never be fluent. Most psychological studies have looked at automatic response time as measured in milliseconds and found that automatic (direct retrieval) response times usually range from 400 to 900 milliseconds (less than one second) from presentation of a visual stimulus to a keyboard or oral response.

In most school situations, students take tests on one-minute timings. Translating a one-second-response time directly into writing answers for one minute would produce 60 answers per minute. However, some children, especially in the primary grades, cannot write that quickly. In establishing mastery rate levels for individuals, it is important to consider the learner’s ability and writing speed. Here are some free

**How To Account For Writing Speed**

One way to take a student’s writing speed into account is to set math fact fluency expectations at a rate in digits per minute that is about 2/3 of the rate at which the student can write digits. For example, a student who writes 100 digits per minute should be able to write 67 math fact digits per minute. This translates to between 30 and 40 problems per minute. **Here’s a link** to Rocket Math’s free writing speed tests as well as tests in the four basic operations.

Teachers should modify this expectation if a student writes less than 100 digits per minute. To modify expectations, treat the student’s digits per minute rate as a percentage of 100, and then multiply that percentage by 40 problems to give the expected number of problems per minute. For example, a child who writes 75 digits per minute would expect 75% of 40 or 30 facts per minute. Here is a blog that helps set math fact expectations based on student’s writing speed.

**Timed Math Fluency Expectations by Grade Level**

If measured verbally, a response delay of about 1 second would be automatic. When writing, students should be able to complete 40 math facts per minute. However, expectations vary by grade level and writing speed.

In general, students should be able to complete 100 problems correctly in five minutes by the end of second grade, 150 problems correctly in five minutes by the end of third grade, 200 problems correctly in five minutes by the end of fourth grade, and so on. However, it is important to note that these are just general guidelines and only apply to students who can write at those speeds.

Timed Math Fluency Expectations by Grade Level |
||

Grade | Math Facts Per Minute | Math Facts Per Five Minutes |

End of Second Grade | 20 | 100 |

End of Third Grade | 30 | 150 |

End of Fourth Grade | 40 | 200 |

End of Fifth Grade | 50 | 250 |

There is noted research that indicates that students who can compute basic math facts at a rate of 30 to 40 problems correct per minute (or about 70 to 80 digits correct per minute) continue to accelerate their rates as tasks in the math curriculum become more complex. However, students whose correct rates were lower than 30 per minute showed progressively decelerating trends when more complex skills were introduced. The *minimum* correct rate for basic facts should be set at 30 to 40 problems per minute, since this rate has been shown to be an indicator of success with more complex tasks.

Sadly, many school districts have expectations as low as 50 problems in 3 minutes or 100 problems in five minutes. These translate to rates of 16 to 20 problems per minute. At this rate, students can count answers on their fingers. So, this “passes” children who have only developed procedural knowledge of how to figure out the facts rather than the direct recall of automaticity.

**Conclusion**

With the right tools, any student can develop math fact fluency and have fun while doing it! Students use Rocket Math’s Subscription Worksheet Program to practice with partners, then take timed tests. Rocket Math also offers math facts practice online through a subscription to the Rocket Math Online Tutor. Students can log in and practice from any device, anywhere, any time of day! You can find Rocket Math in the Clever or ClassLink Library or go here to start a free trial today.

Both Rocket Math programs, the Worksheet Program and the Online Tutor help students master addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division math facts as well as identifying fractions, learning equivalent fractions and learning factor pairs.

Are citations for the research referenced in this article available?

The research for this is summarized in my piece: The third stage of learning math facts: Automaticity–Dr. Don’s Unpublished manuscript Here’s the link to it.

https://www.rocketmath.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Math-Facts-research.1.pdf

Hello! With the grade level expectations chart, what operation is expected in each grade level? For example, I teach third grade, so do I expect by the end of third grade, my third graders should be getting 30 problems correct per minute in just addition and subtraction, all four operations, or what are you thoughts? Thank you VERY much for this help as we are trying Rocket Math Online Tutoring out this year and I want to share with my colleagues what expectations we should all have. Kim

We recommend that students are committing to memory addition facts in first grade, subtraction in second, and after being introduced to the concept of multiplication are committing multiplication facts to memory in third grade, and division facts in fourth grade. If you’re a third grade teacher and your first and second grade teachers do not or have not developed fluency in addition and subtraction, then don’t expect students to be able to meet these expectations in any operation other than multiplication if you take them through that learning track. But once students finish multiplication, you can place them back in addition and then subtraction to learn those.

Please read this blog post that has more detail about what is expected and takes into account students’ writing speed.

https://www.rocketmath.com/2020/02/15/math-benchmarks-writing-speed-matters/