[Please note: the names and birthdate information on the licenses in the image at the left are fictional.]
For years in our school, third grade was the place where students were expected to memorize their multiplication facts. As teachers, we wanted them to be fast and accurate. In order to assess whether my students had automaticity with their facts, I drilled them with the same style of worksheets I was given as a child: 30 problems — 1 minute — go! While many children (myself included!) loved doing these drills and felt motivated to memorize their facts, I knew they caused anxiety in others. Some students would become so nervous they weren’t even able to demonstrate what they knew. This week I'll share with you how I finally abandoned the mad minute in favor of a method that allows students to demonstrate multiplication fluency in only minutes a day.
With the advent of the Common Core State Standards, there has been a shift from math-fact mastery to math-fact fluency at my grade level. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics' "Principles and Standards for School Mathematics" states, "Computational fluency refers to having efficient and accurate methods for computing. Students exhibit computational fluency when they demonstrate flexibility in the computational methods they choose, understand and can explain these methods, and produce accurate answers efficiently." (p. 152)
As a result of these new expectations, I’ve shifted my own thinking on how I assess a student's knowledge of math facts. My third graders now are expected to answer 12 basic fact problems in about 50 seconds. Some students have memorized the facts, but others may use skip-counting strategies, or even taps of their pencil to help them come to an answer quickly. Even though there are only 12 problems, I’ve discovered no difference in my ability to determine who needs more time and practice to build their mathematical foundation and who is ready to move on to the next challenge. Students who know their facts get them all correct in the allotted time, while those who don’t know their facts, do not. One huge difference I have noticed though is in the level of anxiety in the room when it's multiplication time. Students actually beg to do "multiplication fluency" right before we go to lunch each day. This may be because students who previously froze when faced with a sheet filled with problems, now could see the task as one they can conquer.
To get a better understanding of how my students attain math fluency in minutes a day, watch the video below to see them in action.
This is the third year I have checked for multiplication fluency this way and I would never go back to the mad minutes. This method is quick and efficient for me, and my students love it! The feedback on how they did is quick and there are no more papers to lug home to check.
If you would like to try this method in your classroom, you'll find all the resources you'll need below.
My students get one of these sheets for the level they are working on, and they slide it into a sheet protector that they can write on, then easily erase. Even though my students keep the sheets in a plastic sheet protector, I laminated them so they would hold up better. Mine are three years old and most of them still look brand new.
Print the sheets below for your students to use. I make multiple copies of each sheet and store them in a binder with labeled tabs where my students can easily get the sheet they need. Note: The sheets go from 2 to 12 plus one mixed sheet. My third graders have already demonstrated fluency with 1's and 0's before we begin these so I did not include them.
Click on the image above to download and print your own set.
I write the numbers from 1 to 12 on the board in random order, using a different order each day. Students fill in the blanks on their multiplication fluency sheets.
With the timer set at 50 seconds, students begin completing their 12 facts when I say, "Go!"
When students complete one level and are ready for the next, they get their own sheet out of an expandable file folder that's kept at the front of the room.
After I walk around and check the papers, students graph their score daily in order to track progress.
Click the image above to download your own printable graphing sheets. They are simple, but they do the trick!
Some students like to keep track of their progress on a chart they keep in their desk. They get a sticker every time they pass a level.
Print your own for your class by clicking the images.
All the third graders are eager to show they know their facts through 12's so they can earn their multiplication license. I designed this license to look similar to our state driver's license, which seems to make the students like it even more. If you live in Michigan, feel free to click on the image below to download a copy of my license you can customize for your students. (Note: For anyone worried about identity theft, my student's real name and birthdate are not used on my sample.)
You can also use the license below in your classroom. Click the image below to print. You can insert a student picture electronically, or glue one on in the space provided.
Because the students are working in dry erase markers, parents do not see graded papers coming home like they may be used to. To keep parents informed of their child's progress, I created these sheets for my third graders to take home on Fridays. The students fill in their scores for the week and take the sheet home to be signed and returned on Monday. There are four progress sheets on one page (the master sheet is copied back to back) so parents can see progress over the whole month.
Click the image above for a printable version you can customize for our students.
My System in a Nutshell
Write the numbers from 1 to 12 in random order on the board.
Have students copy down the numbers on their fact sheet in the order they appear on the board using dry erase markers.
Give students 50 seconds to complete 12 multiplication problems. When the time is up, students drop their markers.
I walk around and check everyone's paper, marking their score either on their sheet or on their data folder.
Students graph the number they have correct each day.
When a student has received a perfect score two days in a row, they move onto the next number.
The multiplication sheets are kept in an expandable pocket file for students to help themselves.
Once a week, I write down the students' scores from their binders in my grade book.
Students who aren't progressing get extra practice sheets to take home as homework.
Parents receive a weekly note to let them know how their children are doing.
I hope my post this week gives you a few ideas of ways you can make learning multiplication facts fun and less stressful for you and your students. I'd love to hear what you are doing in your classroom to help your students become more fluent with their facts. Please share your ideas in the comment section below.