The Ultimate Guide to Math Fact Fluency

Students counting on their fingers is a sure-tell sign that they didn’t acquire math fact fluency. It is sad to see students, ashamed of the only thing they know, counting on their fingers under their desks. Our elementary educational mission is failing students who haven’t developed math fact fluency, which  is the foundation to more advanced math skills.

Developing math fact fluency takes structure, organization, and work on the part of both teachers and students. In this article, I will share everything you need to know about developing math fact fluency.

What is Math Fact Fluency

Math facts are single-digit problems such as 7+9 or 6×8 or 14-5, and so on. A common name for all the multiplication math facts is the “multiplication table.” Math fact fluency is the ability to answer all math fact questions instantly from recall without having to think through the problem.

Students should be able to recall math facts instantly without having to count on their fingers or  hesitate to think about the answer. This may seem like a high bar, but our brains are great at recalling an unbelievable amount of information daily, and with practice, math facts can be recalled the same way. 

Three Reasons Why Math Fact Fluency is Important

tools to build math fact fluencyMath fact fluency is critical because it is a “tool skill.” Meaning, it is a tool that is used in the process of doing other math problems. Developing this tool skill makes learning math easier as concepts get more complicated. This tool skill needs to be automatic in the student’s brain, in order to save precious short-term memory resources.

Math fact fluency can be compared to reading. Students must recognize words automatically to comprehend the author’s meaning. Otherwise, they will spend too much time decoding individual words.

 

 

When students are fluent in math facts, they are focused on the math process as a whole, rather than stopping to puzzle out the facts. This is important for three reasons: 

1. Students with math fact fluency make fewer errors

Students who lack math fact fluency often make careless errors doing arithmetic computations . If they devote too much energy to deriving math facts, they lose sight of the problem at hand and make mistakes that would otherwise be obvious. Those who can effortlessly recall math facts can concentrate on what they are doing, and ultimately make fewer errors.

2. Math fact fluency makes learning math easier

When a new math procedure is introduced, students who have math fact fluency can easily follow the thread of instruction. Without this fluency, students fall behind instruction or demonstrations as they try working out math facts. This distraction takes away from a student absorbing all of the details necessary to successfully learn new math processes.

The first teacher to use Rocket Math to teach subtraction facts to her second graders realized the benefit first hand. She told me that with Rocket Math, she was able to teach regrouping in subtraction in just three days.

Her students mastered the math facts, and the outcome was extraordinary. The teacher shared that since these students had developed fluency in subtraction facts, they were able to learn other procedures easily.

3. Students who have developed math fact fluency enjoy math and always complete their work

Having to count on your fingers or look up facts on a timetable is slow and onerous. When students can’t work quickly, math problems become a dreaded drudgery. Students are motivated by mastering new skills, which will help them work faster and build confidence . Those who can quickly recall math facts will complete their work with ease , and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

 

How to Build and Improve Math Fact Fluency

steep climb to math fact fluencyBuilding and improving math fact fluency requires a systematic effort over the elementary years. It is a long climb to achieve mastery and there are no short-cuts.

Consistent daily practice throughout elementary school is important for retention. Slow and steady wins the race when building math fact fluency.

Math fact practice should be structured in such a way that students are learning a small number of facts at a time. These small groups of facts  should be practiced daily until students have reached mastery. As time goes on, more groups of math facts are introduced systematically in small amounts for students to master.

Learning 1s to 9s facts in the four basic operations will take elementary students months to master. Worksheets and game applications are two of the best ways to teach math fact fluency over time. Combining structured math fact learning, practice, and evaluation with fun math fact games helps students develop number sense and understand complex numerical relationships.

 

Teaching Math Fact Fluency with Worksheets

Worksheets are popular tools that teachers reach for when teaching math facts, but sadly, they often fall short for the majority of students. A few select students will begin memorizing the facts on their own accord in order to make the worksheets easier, but most students will continue to slowly work out the facts either on their fingers or in their heads. These students may never develop a strong recall of the facts and become flustered when asked to answer problems on the spot.

Fortunately, there are specific worksheets that are effective in building math fact fluency. The key is having worksheets that are structured, systematic, and sequenced. Each worksheet should only have two to four facts to be learned. 

By working on only two to four facts, these worksheets help teach memorization for a strong recall, rather than reinforcing working out problems slowly. Students  will then be able to remember these small groups of facts easier, and by the end of the worksheet will be writing answers from memory. 

 

Teaching Math Fact Fluency with The Rocket Math Worksheet Program

Two students participating in one of Rocket Math's math fluency programsThe Rocket Math Worksheet Program improves upon this concept by using paired practice and saying facts aloud. Students partner up and practice quickly recalling facts together. One student asks the questions and watches for when their partner hesitates to answer. He or she then gives his or her partner more opportunities to practice the harder facts.

The students switch roles, and after both have answered questions, they then take a one minute test on the facts that they have learned so far. If students are answering as fast as their fingers will carry them, then they pass the level and move on to the next worksheet in the sequence.

Ten minutes of practice  every day gets the job done, especially when paired with using these facts in higher level math problems.

 

Teaching Math Fact Fluency with Games

Students and teacher playing multiplication games with dice sitting in a circle in a classroomIn addition to worksheets, schools of education tell teachers to use games to “teach” math facts. Unfortunately, most games and fun activities do not actually help individual students learning math facts to the level of fluency. These games, such as bingo or dice, have several fallouts:

  • Students spend most of their time waiting for their turn rather than practicing facts.
  • They do not focus on teaching a small group of facts in a manner that helps students commit them to memory.
  • The games do not adjust to an individual student’s level of fluency.
  • Students can pace the game slowly enough to have time to figure out facts rather than requiring recall.
  • It is difficult to keep every student engaged, as those who are behind are less likely to participate.

Using the Rocket Math Online Game as an Effective Way to Teach Math Fact Fluency

asian child holding tablet with a math fact fluency app by Rocket MathThere are games that are very effective at building math fact fluency. Games such as the Rocket Math Online Game have several important features that make a big difference.

  1. Every student is engaged in answering math facts—not waiting for a turn.
  2. Students learn only a few new facts at a time so that they can remember them.
  3. The game provides lots of focused practice on each set of facts. 
  4. The game requires students to answer quickly, which guarantees the students recall the answer rather than “figuring it out” over and over.
  5. The game gives an immediate correction and extra practice on any facts that students cannot answer quickly and correctly.
  6. The game only introduces new facts once students demonstrate mastery of facts learned so far.
  7. The game gives students explicit feedback so they have a sense of accomplishment as they work their way through an operation.

Math Fact Fluency Benchmarks

The following benchmarks are reasonable expectations for a school that has an effective math fluency program in place. Of course, a student cannot write math facts any faster than they can normally write, so take that into account when looking at fluency benchmarks. Adjust the benchmarks for students who do not write quickly. 

Kindergarten Numeral Writing Fluency Benchmarks (digits)

Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
 20 digits per minute40 digits per minute
 

First Grade Numeral Writing Fluency Benchmarks (digits)

Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
40 digits per minute60 digits per minute60 digits per minute
 

First Grade Math Fact Fluency Benchmarks (problems per minute)

Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
Addition: 12 per minuteAddition: 25 per minuteAddition: 25 per minute
 

Second Grade Math Fact Fluency (problems per minute)

Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
Addition: 25 per minute                     Addition: 30 per minute                     Addition: 30 per minute
 Subtraction: 12 per minuteSubtraction: 25 per minute
 
Third Grade Math Fact Fluency Benchmarks (problems per minute)
Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
Addition: 30 per minuteAddition: 30 per minuteAddition: 30 per minute
Subtraction: 30 per minuteSubtraction: 30 per minuteSubtraction: 30 per minute
 Multiplication: 30 per minuteMultiplication: 30 per minute
 
Fourth Grade Math Fact Fluency Benchmarks (problems per minute)
Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
Addition: 35 per minuteAddition: 35 per minuteAddition: 35 per minute
Subtraction: 35 per minuteSubtraction: 35 per minuteSubtraction: 35 per minute
Multiplication: 35 per minuteMultiplication: 35 per minuteMultiplication: 35 per minute
 Division: 20 per minuteDivision: 35 per minute
 
Fifth Grade Math Fact Fluency Benchmarks (problems per minute)
Start of YearMid-YearEnd of Year
Addition: 35 per minuteAddition: 40 per minuteAddition: 40 per minute
Subtraction: 35 per minuteSubtraction: 40 per minuteSubtraction: 40 per minute
Multiplication: 35 per minuteMultiplication: 40 per minuteMultiplication: 40 per minute
Division: 35 per minuteDivision: 40 per minuteDivision: 40 per minute

 Math Fact Fluency Assessment

Use this printable packet of free math fact fluency assessments to test your students’ skill levels relative to  the above benchmarks. This will give you a clear idea of your students’ fluency and where there is room for opportunity.

Rocket Math’s assessment packet includes a writing speed test, which helps create realistic expectations for individual students. Using the goal sheet ensures you will evaluate the individual student math fact fluency in light of their writing speed.

Rate students as:

  1. Weak, needs fact work
  2. Good, but fact work could help
  3. Strong, fact work not needed

Special triage priority: if you have fourth-grade students and above, start with multiplication facts. Multiplication facts are essential to future success in math above fourth grade. Even if fourth graders are counting on their fingers for addition and subtraction, teach multiplication mastery first. If fourth graders move to the next grade without strong multiplication fact fluency, they will have a hard time successfully progressing through math.

 

The Best Tools for Developing Math Fact Fluency

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 the Rocket Math Online Game. Students can log in and play from any device, anywhere, any time of day! Start a free trial today. 

Both the worksheet program and the online game help students master addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division math facts for a lifetime of success in math.

 

 

 

In What Order Should Students Learn Fast Math Facts?

Basic, Optional, and Alternative—there are a lot of different Rocket Math programs. But which program should you use first? And in what order should you teach fast math facts? Well, it all depends on the grade you teach and the fast math facts your students have already memorized.

An overview of Rocket Math’s fast math fact programs

Rocket Math program sequence description for teaching fast math factsRocket Math offers multiple programs because their are several ways to teach fast math facts.

The Basic Program

Rocket Math’s basic program includes Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division (1s-9s). The basic program must be mastered by all students.

The Alternative Program: Fact Families

There is another way to learn facts, which is called Fact Family math.  Instead of learning all Addition facts, students can learn Addition and Subtraction facts at the same time.  A fact family consists of four related facts, for example: 3+2 = 5, 2 + 3 = 5, 5 – 3 = 2, 5 – 2 = 3.  As an alternative to using the Basic Program, students can learn fact families up to 10 in first grade.  Then students can move on to the upper fact families 11 to 18 in second grade.  There is no clear evidence that this way is better or the separate operations way is better.  That’s why we offer both options.

Optional Programs

The rest of the fast math facts programs like Rocket Writing for Numerals or Skip Counting are optional. You should only offer these programs to students once they have memorized the fast math facts through the Basic Program or the Alternative Program.

The only exception would be in a school where Kindergarteners did not get a chance to learn how to quickly and easily write numerals. In that case, you might take the first two months of the first grade year to run students through Rocket Writing for Numerals before beginning Addition (1s-9s).

Here’s a link to a printable version of the different Rocket Math programs shown in the graphic above.

Let’s take a closer look at how to implement each program in different grade levels.

First grade math facts: Learn Addition

Rocket Math fast math facts programs for first graders include:

  • The Basic Program
    • (1s-9s) Addition
  • The Alternative Program
    • Fact Families (1-10) Add & Subtract
  • Optional Programs
    • Rocket Writing for Numerals
    • Add to 20

If first grade students are taking all year to get through sets A-Z in Addition in the Basic Program, they need some extra help.  You should intervene to help students who take more than a week to pass a level.  Often they need to practice better or practice with a better partner.  Some may need to practice a second time during the day or at home in the evening.  First grade students who finish the 1s-9s can move on to the Add to 20 Optional Program for the remainder of the year.

Likewise, if you choose to teach Fact Families (1-10) Add & Subtract from the Alternative Program instead of using the Basic Program, your students can use the Optional Programs for supplemental learning purposes.

Second grade math facts: Learn Addition and Subtraction

Rocket Math fast math facts programs for second graders include:

  • The Basic Program
    • (1s-9s) Addition
    • (1s-9s) Subtraction
  • The Alternative Program
    • Fact Families (1-10) Add & Subtract
    • Fact Families Part Two (11-18) Add & Subtract
  • Optional Programs
    • Subtract from 20
    • Skip Counting

Second grade students must have completed Addition before starting on Subtraction (1s-9s).  They can also test out of Addition through the Placement Probes.  Second graders who cannot test out of Addition in first grade or didn’t complete it in first grade must focus on Addition.  Only after getting through Set Z of Addition should they move into Subtraction.

You can substitute the Basic Program’s (1s-9s) Addition and (1s-9s) Subtraction for the Alternative Program’s Fact Families (1-10) Add & Subtract and Fact Families Part Two (11-18) Add & Subtract.

Second grade students who complete Addition and Subtraction 1s-9s (or the Alternative Program) can move on to Subtract from 20.  Students who finish Subtract from 20 can do Skip Counting, which does a great job of preparing students to learn Multiplication facts.

Third grade math facts: Learn Multiplication

There aren’t any Alternative Programs available for third graders from Rocket Math. There are only Basic and Optional Programs. These include:

  • The Basic Program
    • (1s-9s) Multiplication (priority)
    • (1s-9s) Addition
    • (1s-9s) Subtraction
  • Optional Programs
    • 10s, 11s, 12s Multiplication
    • Factors

In third grade, Multiplication has priority—even if students have not mastered Addition and Subtraction.  Multiplication facts are so integral to the rest of higher math that students are even more crippled without Multiplication facts than they are having to count Addition and Subtraction problems on their fingers.  So do Multiplication first. Then, if there’s time, students who need to do so can go back and master Addition and Subtraction.  Once all three of these basic operations are under their belts, students can go on to 10s, 11s, 12s in Multiplication (one of the Optional Programs).  If students successfully progress through each program and there is enough time left in the school year, introduce the Factors program next.

Fourth grade math facts: Learn Multiplication and Division

Like the programs for third graders, there aren’t any Alternative Programs available for fourth graders. There are only Basic and Optional Programs, which include:

  • The Basic Program
    • (1s-9s) Multiplication (priority)
    • (1s-9s) Division (second priority)
  • Optional Programs
    • 10s, 11s, 12s Multiplication
    • Factors

In fourth grade, students need to have completed Multiplication before going on to Division. If they complete Division, they can go on to 10s, 11s, 12s Division, followed by Factors, and then equivalent fractions (shown in the fifth grade section below).

Fifth grade math facts: Learn all basic operations first, then they can branch out

By fifth grade, students should have completed all four basic operations (1s-9s) within the Basic Program (or the Alternative Program for grades one and two).  If students have not completed these basics (and cannot test out of them with the Placement Probes) then the sequence they should follow is Multiplication, followed by Division, then go back and complete Addition followed by Subtraction.  The same recommendations hold for students in any grade after fifth.

Once students have mastered the basics (1s-9s add, subtract, multiply, divide), the supplemental pre-algebra programs are recommended.  These will help more than learning the 10s, 11s, 12s facts.  I would recommend this order:

  1. Factors
  2. Equivalent Fractions
  3. Learning to Add Integers
  4. Learning to Subtract Integers or Mixed Integers

Math teaching strategies #3: Teach computation procedures using consistent language

Improv can be entertaining, but it will frustrate students trying learn a procedure.

Much of math, and especially computation, is about learning a process or a set of procedures. [I am assuming you are practical enough to know that we cannot expect elementary aged children to re-discover all of mathematics on their own, as some people recommend.]

Learning a procedure means knowing “What’s next?”  If you ever learned a procedure (for example a recipe) you know that it is between steps, when you ask yourself, “What’s next?” that you need help from the written recipe.  Students are no different.  Just showing them what to do is usually not enough for them to be able to follow in your footsteps.  You need to teach them the steps of the procedure.  As with anything you teach, you are going to confuse your students if you do things in a different order, or with different words, or different steps.  What you call things, and some of how you explain yourself, and some of the sequence of doing the procedure is arbitrary.  If you are improvising you will do things differently each time and your students will be confused.  At a minimum you need  it written down.

Math teaching strategy: Use a script or a process chart to keep the instructions consistent.

We know a lot about how to help students learn a procedure.  We know we need to consistently follow the same set of steps in the same order, until students have learned it.  We know we need to explicitly tell students the decisions they must make while working so they know what to do and when, in other words, we have to make our thinking process overt.  We know we need to be consistent in our language of instruction so that students benefit from repetition of examples.  And finally, we know we need to careful in our selection of problems so that we demonstrate with appropriate examples how the new process works and where it does not work.

Guess what?  You can’t do all of that when you are improvising your instruction and making up the directions on the fly. To be able to do all that, you need a script and pre-selected examples.  Many teachers have been taught to use a chart of steps, posted in their classroom, to which they refer as they model a procedure.  The same effect can be achieved with a script, so that the teacher uses the same wording along with the same steps in the same order.  If you improvise, it won’t always be the same, which will confuse your students.

You have to learn when and how to make decisions.  Every math procedure involves looking at the situation and making decisions about what and how to do what needs to be done.  You have to know what operation to use, when to borrow, when to carry, where to write each digit and so on.  Because you as the teacher already know how to do the procedure, it is tricky to remember to explain your thinking.

Math teaching strategy: Teach a consistent rule for every decision students must make.

Good teaching involves first explaining your decision-making and then giving your students practice in making the right decision in the given circumstances and finally to make them explain why–using the rule you used in the first place.   First, you teach something like, “Bigger bottom borrows” to help students decide when to borrow.  Then you prompt them to explain how they know whether or not to borrow.  All of that should be asked and answered in the right place and at the right time.  A script or a posted process chart will help you remember all the decisions that have to be made, and what to look at to make the right one.  Without a script it is very unlikely that you will remember the exact wording each time.  You need a script to be able to deliver consistent language of instruction.

Math teaching strategy: Plan ahead to carefully choose the right examples. 

With some math procedures it is quite hard to choose the right examples.  The fine points can be obscured when the examples the teacher happens to come up with, are not quite right.  The examples may be an exception or handled differently in a way the procedure has not taught.  So for example borrowing across a zero is different than across other numerals so the numbers in a minuend must be chosen carefully rather than off the cuff.

Also, when teaching a procedure it is essential to teach when to use the procedure and when not to use that procedure.  It is important that the teacher present “non-examples,” that is, problems in which you don’t follow that procedure.  I have seen students who are taught, for example, borrowing, using only examples that need borrowing.  Then they turn around and borrow in every problem–because that is what they were taught.  They should have been taught with a few non-examples mixed in, that is, problems where borrowing wasn’t necessary so they learned correctly when to borrow as well as how to borrow.   Choosing teaching examples on the fly will often end up with more confusion rather than less.

If it bothers you to see students as frustrated as the one above, then find* or write out a script for teaching computation so that you can be consistent and effective.  Trust me, your students will love you for it.

* You may want to look at the “Learning Computation” programs within the Rocket Math Universal subscription.  Here are links to blogs on them:  Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication.  These are sensible, small steps, clearly and consistently scripted so each skill builds on the next.

5 easy ways to get help running Rocket Math.

Here are 5 ways to get help with the procedures for successful Rocket Math implementation.

1.) Use the ***NEW*** search function.  At the upper left of the blue navigation bar is an icon of a magnifying glass.  Click on that and a search bar opens in the middle of the page.  Click within the search bar and you can type in whatever you are looking for.  It will bring up blogs, parts of the directions, basically anything I’ve written on the subject–which is a lot.  You can get pretty specific very fast, so try this first.  I’m very excited to have added this feature this week, which is why it is top of my list!

2)  FAQs.  Look at the Rocket Math FAQs page.  Click on the linked words to the left, or navigate to it.  The FAQs page is the third Rocket Math Filing cabinet on the webitem under ABOUT in navigation.  The FAQs page displays all of the questions from the teacher directions, and my answers, so you can scroll down to the topic you need quickly.   However, all the FAQs will show up in the search function as well.

2.5) The FAQs are also available in the Rocket Math filing cabinet.  They are in the top drawer, the “Forms and Information” drawer of the filing cabinet.  There are titles of the FAQs so you can open and print any one you wish.  Good for sharing with other staff.

3) Rocket Math YouTube channel. You can go to the Rocket Math YouTube channel.  Click on the linked words to the left, or search for Rocket Math in You Tube.  If you scroll down the page you can click on “View Full Playlist” and then you’ll be able to see all the topics that are available.  Right now there are 37 videos, but that could change if we add some more.

4) DVD training.  Order the Workshop Training DVD (#2004) for $29  This is the whole training from Dr. Don filmed and broken into chapters.  It is over 3 hours and gives a lot of rationale for the procedures we recommend.  Very helpful if Rocket Math is new for your staff.  Really important to do things as recommended.  Having coached this in many schools for many years, I can promise you it will go better if you follow the directions!

5) Contact Dr. Don.  Really.  You can call me (800) 488-4854 during west coast school hours and I’ll probably be able to answer the phone directly.  It’s a joy for me to talk about implementing Rocket Math with teachers, so don’t be shy.  But if you don’t reach me, please send an email to [email protected] rather than leave your phone number because during the school day teachers are very hard to reach.  I’d rather just write an answer in an email so we don’t miss each other.  And if it is a new question I’ll probably turn my answer into a blog that can be found through the search function.

How long should I allocate for Rocket Math daily?

Jessica asks:

As I am planning my daily schedule I am looking for how long I should set aside for Rocket Math each day.  What do you suggest?

Dr. Don answers: 

If you allocate 15 minutes a day for Rocket Math that will be enough.  You might have trouble meeting finishing that quickly in the beginning before the routine is established.  But once the routine is set there is no need to take more time than that–each partner of the pair is practicing for 2 to 3 minutes and the test takes only one minute.  Don’t try to have everyone correct their partners papers as that will take too long.  Making sure that students practice every day with their partner is critical to success, so anything that makes you feel “we don’t have time for Rocket Math today” is harmful to student learning.

The other key is to be sure to teach students how to practice with each other.  If you can train your students to correct hesitations you will accomplish a lot with your Rocket Math practicing time.  Please take a look at my video on “How to teach students how to practice.”   Take the time allocated to Rocket Math for the first several days of school and follow this teaching procedure.  It will pay off for you all year long in improved learning during Rocket Math time.

Without the directions you may get lost!

What happens when teachers don’t have a copy of the Rocket Math Teacher Directions?  Bad things!  

When teachers don’t have the written directions to Rocket Math, the essence of the program usually gets lost.  Procedures get modified and modified over the years until they are not even close to what should be occurring. Sometimes we have found schools that are not even providing daily oral practice.  Other schools don’t give the answer keys to the peer tutors.  Other schools don’t give the writing speed test and make up impossible-to-reach goals for students.  We often see teachers implementing the “Rocket Math” program incorrectly and wondering why it doesn’t work.  We ask them if they have read the teacher directions, and they say they didn’t know there were any.  When teachers have never seen the directions, is it any wonder they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing?  Hear-say directions handed down over the years from one teacher to another just don’t convey all the important details.  Teachers need the directions!

This is why I’d like you to have my complete directions for free. Even if you purchased Rocket Math ten years ago and haven’t gotten the updated versions since then, you can have these directions for free.  I have them in three places.  I have the directions broken out into FAQs on their own web page here.  That’s easy for quick reference.

The second place I have the Teacher Directions is as a downloadable booklet you can print out and distribute.  The Rocket Math Teacher Directions for the worksheet program booklet is here.   Please print this out and give to your teachers, especially in schools that began implementing several years back.  Read them and have a discussion at a professional development time.  You will be astounded at how much your implementation differs.

The third place I have the Teacher Directions is in the “filing cabinet on the web” for those of you who have the subscription. In the “Forms and Information” drawer we have the booklet and the FAQs which can be opened and printed out.

In school-wide implementations of Rocket Math, principals or math coaches need to take a leadership role.  The Administrator and Coach Handbook gives you forms with what to “look-for” in a Rocket Math implementation.  If you use that to observe Rocket Math in your classrooms you’ll quickly see whether or not things are going the way they should.   If you have a subscription to Rocket Math you’ll find all of the chapters of the Administrator and Coach Handbook in the “Forms and Information” drawer of our filing cabinet on the web.

Please take the time to see that you or your teachers are implementing Rocket Math according to the directions.  Trust me, it works SO MUCH BETTER if you do.  I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

 

Can’t I copy answer keys for half the students?

Shane asks: After the answer keys are copied onto colored paper, can’t I just make enough copies of answers for half the students? It seems that they will only be using the answer keys while working with a partner and therefore will only need 1 set of keys per pair.

 

Dr. Don answers: Lots of people think this, but here are four examples of issues that make it preferable for each student to have their own answer key, and yes, it should be on colored paper.

1) When students are absent you must pair two students but under the one-answer-key-per-pair both students could be “without” answer keys!  In both cases, their partner has the answer key and that folder is in their desk.

2) When someone comes in to help or volunteer, you want Johnny to practice Rocket Math with that person–but Johnny doesn’t have an answer key–his partner does. So Johnny has to go searching for an answer key.  If Johnny had his own answer key he could just get out his Rocket Math folder and go to work.

3)  The Title 1 or Special Ed teacher or instructional assistant might offer to do extra practice with a student, the student takes his/her folder down to the a place to practice–but doesn’t have an answer key.

4) Alex moves up to division, but his partner doesn’t have an answer key to division–another example where Alex needs his own answer key.

Catalog for Rocket Math 2016-17 now available

The 2016-17 Rocket Math catalog is now available.  Request one be mailed to you free-of-charge at this link.  We have simplified our subscription pricing, so that you can order on-line and get the bulk discount for any number of subscriptions.  Any number over ten will get you the Basic Subscription for $10 instead of $29, and the Universal Subscription for $30 instead of $49.  But the main reason to get the catalog is to see the cool supplemental stuff we have available from Rocket Math.

Race for the Stars games will liven up facts practice in your room.  You can get these individually, you can get a Game Center to set up in your room, or you can get a Tournament crate that several classrooms can share.  Cape Mockup - Child wearing cape

Supplements to aid with motivation are available with achievement awards, success stickers, reward pencils and even the shiny and alluring Super Hero Rocket Math cape (pictured here).

There are also a training DVD, as well as crates for organizing and charts for your walls.  Get your free catalog today and start planning for your next gift-receiving holiday!

How to avoid unhealthy competition: Using the Wall Chart.

When students begin to pass levels in Rocket Math, and color in the Rocket Chart in their folders, they naturally are proud of their accomplishments.  Invariably when I go into classrooms students want to tell me what level they are “on.”  Left unchecked this can sometimes grow into unhealthy competition where some students begin to feel really bad about their slower progress, and students in the lead act arrogantly or disrespectfully.  The Rocket Math Wall Chart is designed to curb that competition, by putting all the students on the same team.

star_stickerThe Wall Chart comes with over 700 star stickers.  Each time a student passes a level the teacher awards them with a star sticker, which they take up to the Wall Chart and put into one of the squares in the chart.  Students fill the chart from the bottom up.  The teacher sets a goal in a few weeks, which date is marked on the goal arrow, and the goal arrow is placed a couple of rows up from where the students are now.  (You can just see that in the picture above.)  If the students fill in the squares up to the arrow–before the date specified on the arrow–they earn a group reward such as extra recess time, or a popcorn party, etc.  Wall chart half filledIn this way, each time a student passes a level they are putting up a score for the whole team.  It is good for everyone.  The teacher is able to praise the class for their hard work and accomplishments, and the whole class is able to feel good about their collective effort.

Passers-by as well as interested administrators can praise the class as a whole for their successes with Rocket Math.  The Rocket Math Wall Chart becomes a focus of pride and recognition for the whole class.  The normal price for the Wall Char (#2005) of $18 includes directions, plenty of star stickers, four goal arrows, and the chart itself.   They are cheaper by the dozen, $135 for all twelve.

Summer School? Use Rocket Math!

Hi Dr. Don,
We plan on using Rocket Math with our Summer School students in grades 3rd-8th. I know you recommend Multiplication for these students. We will only have these students for 12 days over the course of 3 weeks. Any thoughts on how you would implement it? Your opinion is greatly appreciated.
Yvonne K. Colland ELD – Instructional Technology Coach

Thank you, Yvonne,
Twelve days is VERY short, however students enjoy Rocket Math, if they don’t have to do it too long at one time. I would recommend three ten-minute sessions each day spread out as much as possible. So one at the start of the day, one in the middle and one just before going home. If there’s an hour or more between sessions students won’t mind. They can take it home and practice at home if they like.
The regular practice with a peer for 2-3 minutes, switch roles and take a test can be done in ten minutes.
The next thing you could do is set up the Game Center with the Race for the Stars Multiplication game set out. The Game Center has a poster for students names and they get to post their best time on each board of Race for the Stars. Students can put the 24 problems cards on race-for-the-stars-product-imagery-multiplicationeach board down next to the answers as fast as they can with a partner timing them on the included (Silent!) stopwatch. When they beat their best time on the board they get to post the new time and put a star sticker over their previous time. That would stimulate a lot of practice. Right now we have a coupon code FreeGameWithCtr that gives you the Race for the Stars game free with the purchase of item #2112 Game Center with stopwatch ($49).

Finally, if your school has iPads, or if you can have students bring in iPads or iPhones, there is the Rocket Math Multiplication App that sells for $2.99 (half that if you purchase through the Apple Education VPP).  Students can practice on that app for five minutes at a time and each device cRocket Math iOS Multiplication App Top Rated by Balefirean support up to three students.  Students love to play that game and you can print out Rocket Charts for them to keep track of their progress.  If they can take it home they’ll be sure to practice more there.

I’m not certain you could get all the students through Level Z in the three weeks you have, but you could make a big dent in it.  Most importantly they would know as many facts as they could learn which would put them ahead in learning the rest.