At first, it may seem like the way Rocket Math presents the same simple facts over and over, is so easy, it must be a waste of time.
But like anything you learn, you have to start where it seems easy and then build up to where it is hard. Rocket Math has been effective helping students learn their math facts for over 20 years. It is designed according to scientifically designed learning principles, which is why it works, if students will work it. Rocket Math carefully and slowly introduces facts to learn in such a way that students can achieve fluency with each set of facts as they progress through the alphabet A through Z. Let me explain.
Dead simple in the beginning on purpose
Set A begins with two facts and their reverses, e.g., 2+1, 1+2, 3+1 and 1+3. Dead simple, huh? But in answering those the student learns what it is like to instantly “know” an answer rather than having to figure it out. The student says to himself or herself, “Well, I know that one.” The student learns he or she can answer a fact instantly with no hesitation every time based on recall and not figuring it out.
The game requires the student to answer all problems at a fast rate, proving that he or she knows those facts. Once that level is passed the game adds two more facts and their reverses,. The same process of answering them (and still remembering Set A) instantly with no hesitation every time. When that is achieved, the game moves the student on to Set C, two more facts and their reverses.
A powerful correction procedure is in place.
Eventually, every student gets to a fact on which they hesitate (maybe one they have to count on their fingers), meaning they can’t answer within the 3 seconds allowed. The screen turns a pinkish color to signal there’s a correction underway. Mission Control then says (and displays) the problem and the correct answer. Then the answer goes away and the game says, “Go again,” and has the student answer that problem. Then it presents the problem again. Then gives a different fact to answer and goes back to check on the fact the student hesitated on again. Then another fact and then back to the target fact again. Once the student completes all those corrections without any hesitations or errors, the screen turns white and moves on. Watch this short video to see how the game corrects an error. Notice how much practice the student gets, ensuring they will remember the fact.
Three phases in each level ensure mastery
Take-Off phase. In the Take-Off phase the student is introduced to four new facts. That’s all the student has to answer. But the student has to answer each one instantly. The student has to answer 12 examples of those four facts in a row without an error or a hesitation. This ensures the student memorizes those four new problems.
Orbit phase. Once the Take-Off phase is passed the student goes into the Orbit phase, where there is a mix of recently introduced facts along with the new facts. (This is like the Worksheet program where the part the students practice orally runs around the outside of the test.) The student has to answer up to 30 facts and is allowed only two errors or hesitations. After the third error or hesitation the student has to start over in the Orbit Phase, marked by a “Keep Trying” screen and pep-talk.
Universe phase. Once the Orbit phase is passed, the student goes on to the Universe phase, which presents an even mix of all the facts learned so far and presents them randomly. (This is like the test in the Worksheet Program.) Again the student has to do up to 30 problems and can only hesitate on 2 of them or he or she has to start over, marked by a “Keep Trying” screen and pep-talk. But once the student proves that all of those facts can be answered without hesitation, the game moves on to the next level, introducing four new facts to be learned.
An electronic version of what happens in the Worksheet Program
In the Worksheet Program, students practice with a partner. In the Online Game the student practices with the computer. In both versions of Rocket Math the students follow the same careful sequence and slowly, but successfully, build mastery of all of the facts in an operation. It’s hard work and takes a while, but we try to make it fun along the way. It will work for everybody, but not everybody is willing to do the work. At least, now you understand how Rocket Math is designed so it can teach mastery of math facts.