Monday, January 18, 2016

Drill and Thrill

Ok "thrill" may be a strong word when it comes to learning math facts but we try to make it as fun as possible! My class does 1 minute timed tests which have their pros and cons. Pros- kids are fluent and fast with their facts. The more they practice and repeat them quickly the more chances of becoming long term memory. Cons- stressful. I certainly don't want my students to hate and dread the facts test. However, there is such thing as good stress. Having a small amount of excitement helps you reach your potential and push yourself. Without it, things can become boring. This makes me think of competitive games. Yes you want to work to win, but if there's too much pressure it can cause too much stress. So here's the idea- timed tests have no weight on their grades and there's no timeline that they have to meet all their goals by. Each time a student passes a fact test (30 questions in 1 minute) they can add a piece to our multiplication monsters! Each child does not have their own monster, so comparisons aren't made. The focus is on making personal growth, rather than keep up with classmates. Check out how much our monsters have grown since we started!

Since everyone is working at their own level, I had to find a way to keep track of who is where. The picture below is the chart I keep. This also helps me see if a kiddo is stuck on a particular fact. If I see a student who's spent 2 weeks on a fact I try to watch them carefully while they test. If they just can't write fast I will give them a quick oral quiz and if they know their facts they move on. They shouldn't stay back just because they can't write fast. You'll also be able to pick up on who usually does well but didn't study their facts that week. Those kiddos just need a little nudge and reminder that I've noticed how they usually do well and I ask how they practice at home. That usually does it!

So how do we practice?

Games! Some fun competition with their friends and with themselves.

We use timers and plastic sleeves to practice their facts in a minute. The answers are on the back to check their work. Many students like to race, or keep track of their time to see if they can get faster. The pages are color coded so students can work on whatever fact they're on.

Students also use these nifty bracelets with their facts so they can practice on the go! It's the perfect go-to when we're waiting at the bathrooms or have packed up early!

My students have also enjoyed playing bump games, which has games for every fact they're working on for instant differentiation! We played as a whole class lesson first so that everyone was clear on the rules and could handle playing independently in centers.

If you're looking for a way to recycle and make your games for cheap, then start saving your bottle caps! I used garage sale stickers and bottle caps to make this simple game. They are color coded by the facts, so students can reach in the bucket for a green cap if they're working on 4's. If they can answer the fact (answer under the cap) they keep it. Winner has the most caps at the end!

Another fun game for cheap is power towers! The math facts are on the side of the cup with the answer on the bottom. As they collect cups they can build a tower with them. The tallest tower wins! Store this nifty game in an old Pringles can and call it a day :)

Looking for more of a technology route? I bought the "I can" QR task card games from "The One Stop Teacher Shop". My kiddos LOVE it! They answer questions for various math topics (including multiplication and division) and scan the QR code on each card to see the correct answer. I'm a big fan and highly recommend you check out her games!
There's also several apps out there that offer practice in a fun way. Quizlet is great for flash cards, but my students really love the apps that make it more of a game.

Here's some of the apps we love:
-Sushi monster
-Wonder Bunny
-Math Zombies
-Math duel (this is great if you have limited tablets- two play on one device)
-Monkey Math

Last but not least, we've got to keep the fun coming at home. I made these homework sheets like a "math menu" where students can pick and choose activities to do at home. These games don't require many materials but some do require a lot of parent interaction. Thanks to the options and choices though, if a kiddo works on homework alone there's still plenty they can do to get in their practice.

So that's a little glimpse of how we practice our math facts in my classroom! Please share some activities you do with your class. I'm always looking to mix it up!

Rock on,


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