I started a daily practice of simple math facts like eight plus four, nine minus five, six times seven and twenty-five divided by five. There were 100 of these simple random combinations on each page for add, subtract, multiply and divide with a total of 400 points. I timed it from three to five minutes for each page until I found that if they could finish the test with a perfect score in twenty minutes they had them memorized.
I had two sixth graders with low scores like a beginning first or second grader. I said, “Give me your math books and take the math kit every day until you get a perfect score.” “They grumbled!!” Plus, they were a discipline problem in all classes. But they too became excited each day to get started to push the tape recorder with my voice telling them to move onto the next page and to see how many more points they would get. It took five weeks and they both were finally getting perfect scores. I handed back their math books and they could then progress in the math program. The teachers commented that the students discipline was changed in all classes because, “Success Breeds Success!!”
Those that finished early in less than twenty minutes were required to have a chapter book to read when finished to not bother the other students still working. Those that finished early their score was based on time and each time they took the test their time would get faster.
With the third and fourth grade students, we took the math kit daily and I printed transparency answer keys to speed up the correction. Later in the year we took the math kit once a week as they began to get perfect scores. By January my goal was to have all third and fourth graders with their math facts memorized.
I used green or red pens that were picked up when the twenty minutes had expired. Then they could correct their own paper with pencil and could not change answers. The students would help each other add up their scores on each page and the total placed on the bar graph.
The bar graph was a little more difficult, so I would cut and paste the elementary bar graph for the elementary students and a single page for middle school students. When the math kit was finished, they would color in the bar graph with the date and score at the bottom. Taking the test each day the graph score continually went up, and this is when the excitement began. They were willing to take the kit each day to see how many more facts they could answer or how much faster they might finish.
We placed the art math train on the classroom walls with ditto paper and a one inch border to color any way they desired, with a different multiplication fact on each page. All the facts started with the two’s on up, but reciprocal facts were dropped, so we ended with nine-times-nine and all the other combinations had been completed.
The record was with a third grader, where she finished with a time of 7 minutes and 45 seconds.
The following year a fourth grader, was rivaling the record and the last day of school the students talked her in to taking the test one more time to see if she could break the record. She finished in 7 minutes and 25 seconds.
I was successful with my goal of having a high percentage of elementary students with their math facts memorized with speed by January of each year.
Since retiring in 2010 I have been tutoring 7th and 8th graders. They pick up the calculators to do the multiplication and division problems. But on the state test they don’t get to use calculators and the pass rate for reading was high, whereas the math scores were very low. Parents or teachers and the stubborn lazy students did not do the practice that was needed, but now it is on their back to go to work and memorize them.