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Showing posts with label research based. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research based. Show all posts

5 Minutes a Day to Math Fact Fluency

After many years in the primary classroom, I've finally developed a sure proof system for math fact fluency.

Math fact fluency is all about memorization.

Before this can happen, the children need to have a basic understanding of what it means. A child can't memorize 5+2=7 Unless they understand they are joining a set of 5 items to a set of 2 items and will end up with 7 items. Once they have that understanding, they can start the memorization process. Once the facts are fluent, the related math concepts will flow far more easily!

Yes, rote memorization is NOT the most fun part of learning.

Yes, it takes work, and some students really struggle, but we know they're all different and can help them be successful at their own levels.

Here are some suggestions for math fact fluency!

There are 200 Addition and Subtraction facts to be memorized. There are also 200 Multiplication and Division facts to be memorized. Children can be easily overwhelmed if given that many facts all at once!

Give them a pattern of facts to learn at a time. Research tells us children learn best by fact families.

Each child should have a group of facts they are working on, but also a group of facts they know, and don't want to forget! Make sure they spend time reviewing the old facts as well as learning the new bunch!

Be right up front with the students. Talk about what memorization is, and how they need to do the work to memorize the facts. Share the differences between automaticity and "counting on fingers," or "figuring it out in your head." (I don't believe counting on fingers or mental math to be bad, as they are part of the process! However, we hope to get the kiddos to full automaticity eventually!)

Talk to them about what has helped you when you had to memorize something, and encourage them to share their own memorization experiences. We're all different, but sharing ideas will help everyone! (Isn't that our goal? Teaching children to help each other so we are all successful?)

Or as I call it in my classroom, "out soft." That means, loud enough to hear yourself, but not loud enough to disturb your classmates. Verbalizing the whole equation, not just the answer, makes an enormous difference in the learning process!

Practice with friends: children are social. Practicing with a classmate makes practice more fun. Some tend to be a little competitive: let that work for them, as long as everyone is happy about it. Plus, children learn little tricks from each other. (Yes, I've learned a lot of little tricks from listening to my students!)

Timed tests can be motivating for many, but there are others that "choke" with that stress. You know your students better than anyone. I give timed tests once a week, but if I see any signs of stress, I'll pull that child aside and work with them. I make it fun, but when one-on-one, I can clearly see if a child is counting on fingers, pausing to figure it out in their head, or truly has the facts memorized. No matter what, I make sure it is a positive experience with lots of praise for the things the child is doing correctly!

When I feel a child is ready to move to the next level, before school starts, I'll put the next level of practice cards on their desk, to be cut out and sorted. You'd better believe there are shreiks of delight when they are found! I'm sure you know plenty of other ways to celebrate their successes as well!

I spend time at the beginning of the school year setting routines. There are several ways the facts can be practiced: everyone practice on their own, practicing as part of math rotations, small group games, practicing on computers or devices, practicing with a teacher or adult helper, and so on! I usually teach the routines using "easy facts" before we get to the tougher ones. Once the routines are set, they're good to go!

Once a student has proved mastery of all the levels, of addition and subtraction, I might have that child review all the levels again. Another option is to move onto multiplication and division. Although mastery of these facts isn't necessary for first or second graders, those students who master addition and subtraction quickly are usually quite ready for the upper levels. (Just make sure they understand what it all means!)

Another option: have them work with others. Perhaps it's because my dad was a football coach, but I've always felt it's our job to look out for the whole "team," and that concept is well instilled in my students. We have not succeeded until we have all succeeded!

These are my foolproof systems for both levels. I swear by these materials! I've used them for years and found them to be successful (and loved) by both students and teachers.

Fact Fluency System for Addition and Subtraction: The Bundle

Multiplication and Division Facts:

Fact Fluency System for Multiplication and Division: The Bundle

or get them both in this bundle:

Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One +1 Fact Families

Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One X1 Fact Families

Here are a few strategies, based on research, that will help kiddos remember spelling words.

1.  Spell it aloud! The act of saying the letters along with hearing the letters helps the pathways form in the brain.

2. Get them moving! Studies show a connection between movement and memory. Students can bounce a basketball while spelling, jump while spelling, or even do interpretive dance while spelling the words.

3. Integrate Music! Ever notice how you can remember song lyrics from years ago that you never even tried to memorize? Music is closely connected to memory! Make up a little tune to the spelling of the words, or have the children make it up!

4. Integrate the Arts! Have the children write the spelling words, then make up a design around them. Or, you could have them paint their words! Don't forget the performing arts: they could dance their words or act out their words!
5. Color code! Brains really connect to colors! Have the children write the words using one color for vowels, and one color for consonants.
6. Hands-on! Use blocks, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, or other manipulatives to create the words.
7. Get social! Get the kiddos to have conversations about their words. They can talk about the letters that follow the rules, and the letters that DON'T follow the rules. (Add color coding to this one, and that doubles the chance they'll remember the spelling!)

Want more ideas?

This is a set of task cards with 48 color and 48 black and white task cards that can be used with any spelling list!

These cards contain activities based on brain research that include integrating the arts, multi-modality, and multiple intelligences. This set of sight word practice task cards is perfect for a word work center, homework, or extra practice in any setting.

Ten Tips for Helping Learning Stick

I've been interested in how the workings of the brain for many years now. I've read tons of books, articles, and videos. I'm hardly an expert, but a lot of the information I read about really makes a lot of sense!

Here are ten ideas that are research based, and help me out in the classroom!

1. Move!  Studies show that combining movement with learning helps learning stick!  There are plenty of ways to include movement. I like to include a gesture when I teach a concept, and have the children mirror the gesture.  Trust me, they come back years later repeating the gesture!
Here are some of my darlings acting out one of the Author's Purpose reasons:  Entertainment!

2. Feedback!  Children need to know if  they're on the right track! I use a "Traffic Light" symbol when I correct papers.I'll highlight the child's name in green if they're doing what's expected at grade level. I'll highlight in yellow if there's something they need to be careful about. (Usually there's a written note.) I'll highlight in red (or pink, it's a little more "gentle,") if they need to stop and revisit the idea. (Usually there's a personal conversation, too.) Plus, there's one more color: if the work is "above and beyond grade level expectations," I'll highlight in purple. Of course, purple is for royalty, and I've been known to bow to children who pass in this sort of work!

3. Talking!  Yes, students need to talk and have social experiences! Since I work with little ones with short attention spans, I include loads of "Turn and Talk" time!  I often pose a question for discussion with a partner. The question might be a review, or a query, or maybe a prediction. It's tough not to be engaged when they're involved in conversation with their peers! Plus, when I listen in, I can tell if they're learning what they are suppose to be learning, or not! That gives me feedback on my teaching, too!

4. Humor! Did you realize that laughing is actually healthy? It brings oxygen to the brain and minimizes stress, which is bad for learning. It's time to pull out the joke books and get those kids laughing!

5. Stories!  Kids remember your stories! They love to hear about your family, your pets, and they especially love to hear about when you were little! HERE is a link to a story I often tell my students about my first day of school ever. I tell it to the kids as a model to show them how to write about their lives.

6. Emotions! I'm sure if you think of times where you felt strong emotion, you'll have strong memories as well. The above link tells about a strong emotion for me. Don't most people remember their weddings, the day their children were born, and, unfortunately, the death of a loved one. That's proof that our memories are tied to our emotions. Luckily, with kids, a little friendly competition or exciting situation will do the trick! I'll bet you remember that class play in third grade, and the Spelling Bee in 5th grade! Just be careful... bad emotions bring strong memories as well!

7. Music! How many of you remember all the words to the Brady Bunch Theme Song? I'll bet you never even had to work at it! I've written simple songs with simple lyrics to help the children remember important facts, such as The Seven Continents.  (See THIS post for lyrics.) I also use music to set the mood as they enter the classroom, and I use classical music in the background to help the children focus.

8. Brain Breaks! Studies show that children can attend only their age plus or minus 5 minutes, with 20 minutes total for adults. After that time, they need time to process the information so it can work its way into the long term memory.  I'm sure you can find plenty of ideas for brain breaks.

9. The Five Senses!  Studies show visual trumps all the other senses. If you pair knowledge with some sort of visual, it has a better chance of sticking. It's also been said the way to a child's heart is through their stomach! Teaching about a country?  Serve some food from that country! Teaching estimation? Estimate lollypops! Here's something I did to help the children remember to put spaces between their words.

10. Integrate the Arts!  I've already mentioned music, but integrating other arts has been known to ignite a passion for learning.  Dramatics, dance, clay, painting, drawing, and photography are great ways to help learning stick!  I'll bet you can even think of more varieties of the arts, and how to connect them to learning!

I've been wracking my brain for years, trying to think of a way to get those basic facts to stick!

There is way too much math that depends on knowing the basic facts, so we want the little ones to go beyond the "counting on fingers" or "counting on in your head" stage!
We've been using this sequence for learning facts at my school, and I must say, the kids are getting it! We all know it's not a good idea to introduce all the facts at once. There are 200 facts to be learned, and learning them in some systematic way is necessary. My knowledge of brain based learning tells me we need to help the children make connections, use visuals like color and pictures, practice frequently, add a social component, and make it fun. This will all help those facts stick!

I've taken 8 basic patterns and made 8 color coded sets of cards to be practiced based on these concepts:  plus one families, plus 10 families, plus 9 families, sums of 10, doubles, doubles plus 1, plus 2 families, and the remaining facts.  The "families" include 2 addition and 2 subtraction facts for each fact.  (For example, 1+8=9, 8+1=9, 9-1=8, and 9-8=1 are all connected.) These connections help children remember! I've even included a game that's connected to the cute little pictures on each card.

Practicing the facts is only half the challenge.  The other challenge is showing mastery.

I've included assessments with each set. There are 2 basic assessments with each family. The 2 assessments are both similar. I just thought you'd like a second option so they aren't taking the exact same assessment each time. Each assessment has 5 columns of 10 facts. I give the children one minute to complete as many facts as they can. (The timing helps distinguish between the kids who know the facts, and the kids who still need to figure them out.) I have found that kids that get 20 - 25 facts in a minute are definitely ready to move on to the next level. (This, of course, is up to you.) Some kids really need a one on one assessment with the cards, as their writing skills just can't keep up with their thinking skills.

Want to check it out? See the image below for the freebie version of the first set along with the assessments. Addition and Subtraction Fact Fluency Freebie!

How do you help the facts stick?

I read a lot of articles on the internet, most of them have something to do with how the brain learns and holds information. We are lucky to be teaching in the 21st century where research is published daily about the brain.  I find this absolutely fascinating, and follow several brain-related publications.

Recently I read this article, Want to hold onto a Memory?  Make a Fist. It tells about a study about clenching fists to help the memory. First, a learner should clench the right fist for 45 seconds to activate the encoding part on the left side of the brain. (Left-handed people do the opposite.)

Then, clenching the left fist will help recall the information.

Although there is a lot of research to be done on this area, I've been suggesting to my students to clench their "writing hand" fist while saying a series of facts, for example: the "plus 3s". It would sound like this:

3+0=3 3+1=4 3+2=5 3=3+6 3+4=7
3+5=8 3+6=9 3+7=10 3+8=11 3+9=12

Then, they can sit down and write them while clenching their non-writing hand.
Of course, they might need some fun help with the clenching.

For the sports fans:

For geography enthusiasts: (These are my favorite!)

I started using the term "punch out the facts" to remind the children to make a fist!

Even if this recent research doesn't pan out, there are plenty of brain strategies that will help the children learn their facts:

1. Talking!

Saying the fact out loud helps!

2. Visuals!

As they read the facts, they are using visuals to help the memory!

3. Movement!

As they clench each fist, they are physically engaged!

4. Repetition!

As they repeat each fact, they are making more connections in the brain!

Here's a resource that lists all the addition and subtraction facts the children need to learn.

Most other math skills depend upon this basic knowledge!