We have had several inquiries about how we incorporate timed math facts tests in our second grade classrooms. Here is how we choose to implement them.
Students begin with 0s and progress through each level all the way through 10s. At which point they would take the 100 mixed problem test three times (with a 95% or higher score) to prove mastery. (Then we follow the same procedure for subtraction timed tests. If they pass those facts in the same way, then they can move on to multiplication. In our experience, parents really appreciate this because they feel their students get a “leg up” for third grade and are working at their own accelerated pace.)
We have read that research supports allowing approximately 4 seconds per problem to prove mastery. So, on the 25-problem tests we have created students would get 1 minute and 40 seconds to complete the test. At “time’s up” we allow students to put pencils down and complete any unfinished problems with a crayon. This gives them a sense of completion and also allows for a bit more practice. The score would be all correct answers in pencil out of 25. Also, we try to give these tests three times a week if possible. Because they are so quick, it doesn’t take up much of math time.
Here is the link to the addition math fact timed tests and resources we have created:
Addition Timed Test Resources (These have been updated with both vertical and horizontal versions of the test so that you can give your students both types.)
There is lots of debate about whether or not these types of timed tests are appropriate for all kids because they can sometimes create apprehension in students. Here are some tips for how we help kids master math facts using these quick assessments and also to alleviate anxiety.
1. Keep it individual. Give students sticker charts to keep track of their progress and encourage them to be private about their levels. Be sure to emphasize that learning math facts is something that is mastered based on practice, but it is most certainly something in which students will progress differently. As students pass different levels let them move forward, even as others have the need to take a level again and again. One way to manage this in class is to write names on individual leveled pages before passing them out and place them face down in front of each child. This certainly won’t keep individual levels a secret, but once you start the timer, students are typically more focused on their own pages. **TIP: Don’t let students stop working if they finish early. Tell them they need to double check as many answers as they can before the time is up.**
2. Keep it motivational. Be sure to celebrate ALL successes with students when it comes to improving on or passing a level. We like to give them a one-on-one smile, compliment and pat on the back the day after a timed test. Of course we also pass out stickers for their individual charts as they pass a level as well.
3. Keep in-class practice fun. As much as possible, provide not only the time to practice in class, but make it fun by finding or making up games. There are so many ways to practice math facts that are much more fun than “kill and drill”. We have one quick and easy idea below using ordinary decks of cards and then we have also created some “Let’s Spin” games you can use.
Card Game – Give each pair of students a deck of cards with the face cards removed – but be sure there are at least two jokers in the deck to represent zeros. Students sort the cards by suit (hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs) and then each student takes two of the piles. The game is played like war. At the same time both students flip a card over. The first one to call out the correct answer gets to take both cards for their own. (This game typically requires a time limit because – just like the real card game of war – it can go on forever!)
Let’s Spin – Here are some printable games to keep it fun:
More than anything, remember to keep things positive, hold conferences with students to discuss frustrations and ideas for better progress, teach differentiated strategies to help all kinds of learners, communicate progress with parents and help students set personal goals for mastery.
What are some ways you help students to master their math facts? Share them with us!