Because they didn’t know their math facts. Even the simple ones like 6 + 1. Because they didn’t know their math facts and had to use tally marks or count on their fingers for each problem, it took us a long time.
Same thing happened in 3rd grade. We were teaching multiplication in the use of tables. They didn’t know their multiplication facts, so our whole 30 minutes was spent making tally marks or pictures to represent the multiplication problem.
Well what’s wrong with that you say? Did they still get the correct answer? Most of the time yes.
But I believed the bigger problem was that they were spending so much time and energy trying to solve the math fact that they didn’t have much energy left for the actual problem.
In Texas, we take the big STAAR test. Students have 4 hours….ONLY four hours….to complete the test. There are usually about 52-60 problems on the math test. If the students use a lot of that time to figure out simple math facts, then they don’t have time to properly solve all the questions on the test.
So I came up with a plan.
Now normally plans for math fact fluency and automaticity are boring and put kids to sleep.
I wanted to create something that kids would love. Something that kids would look forward to. Something that kids would beg for.
So I created Army Math.
If I somehow forgot Army Math one day, my students would remind me. It happened every single time! They LOVED it!
Each grade 1st-5th has a different program, with each grade having different goals.
Here is what is included in the 3rd Grade program:
4th and 5th grade also includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed.
However, 1st and 2nd grade just includes addition, subtraction, and addition/subtraction mixed.
My students LOVED reaching their goal. We had a big class chart in my classroom to keep track.
They loved being able to see how they ranked with the class.
When they reached their goal for that level and got the level certificate, they got to sign the wall. They LOVED to sign the wall! Then they would get a 10-finger “woo” from the the whole class. You should have seen the smiles on their faces. Priceless.
In addition to using Army Math, I also incorporated a lot of math fact games into the classroom.
Roll the Dice
Students play in pairs and get two dice. One player rolls the dice. You add the two numbers. Whichever play says the sum first gets to roll the dice next. Play continues until time is up! It’s quick and easy. You could also use the 10-sided dice instead of the usual 6-sided dice.
Ways to adapt it:
~ Add the dice and say a subtraction fact in the same fact family
~ Add the dice and say all the facts within that fact family
~ Multiply the dice
~ Multiply the dice and say a division fact in the same family
~ Multiply the dice and say all the facts within that fact family
Using a deck of cards with the numbers 1 (Ace) – 9, players divide the deck up between them. On the count of 1, 2, 3…flip, each player flips over their card. Players add the two numbers. The first player to say the sum gets to keep the two cards and puts them at the bottom of their deck. Play continues until time is up or one player has all the cards. They loved it! I love the sounds of fun and laughter in my math class! This game is also great for multiplying the numbers, which would make it Multiplication War.
You can also add a different element to the game. Players keep score on their paper, with each player keeping score on their sheet. If Yovanni said the answer first, then we both write down the fact under Yovanni. If Ms. H says it first, then we both write it under Ms. H. It’s a great way to make the students accountable.
I hope I gave you some ideas to make math fact fluency fun and not dreaded and boring!