Thursday, January 3, 2013

What to Do About those Multiplication Facts??

One of my least favorite parts of teaching upper grades are multiplication tables.  SO much of what I teach in 5th grade is dependent upon the fact that my students are fluent in multiplication.  If, for example, they don't know what 3 times 4 is, it is really hard to ask them to find Least Common Multiples or Greatest Common Factors.  Finding the percent of a fraction, division in general...all really, really hard if you are struggling with your multiplication facts.

So what to do?  I can't take out gobs and gobs of time to work on the tables.  We simply don't have gobs and gobs of time.  However, I do one thing that seems to have worked for my students over the past 14 years....timed tests.

Did I hear an audible gasp???  I know it is SO very old school.  But sometimes, old school works.  I use a program that I got while student teaching in San Diego called Lightning Rod.  It is no longer in print (such a shame) but I did find one teacher who put his pages up online here.  I have all of these copied, placed in a file, and ready to go.

Each day, I take out about 4 minutes of my day to time test the students.  If they pass, they move on to the next test. If they don't, they get the dreaded "Multiplication Homework" <dun dun dun>.  It is simply a sheet with the table they missed (either multiplication or division), and they need to write it out 10 times each.  This is nothing revolutionary, but it is so dreaded it actually has the desired effect of the students studying their tables...all in an effort to avoid this extra homework.   I honestly can say that I have seen my students' internalization of the facts skyrocket because of this added homework.  They hate it that much that they would rather study their flashcards at home...go figure ;)  Here are both the multiplication and division sheets for you.

So here is how I set it up.

The Lightning Rod box is in the back of the room, along with a record chart.  During Math Rotations, the students check the chart and gather their own Lightning Rod test.  When Rotations are over, I ask everyone to take out their test (which they have had face down on their desks)  They circle their time limit (everyone starts on 2 minutes until they make their way through the entire series...which takes the proficient kids about a semester to do)  I then time them for 2 minutes...giving a warning at 1 minute left and 30 seconds left.  When time is up, Table Captains collect the tests and get them into the inbox.

Then, during lunch or some other time, I correct these tests.  (this really is the hardest part on me, but I have managed to make it a priority so it gets done)  When papers are getting passed back for homework, the students who get a Lightning Rod know to go to the Multiplication/Division test box, grab a drill sheet, and do it for homework.   As the year progresses, there really are less and less kids who need to visit the drill box.

So there you have it.  What do you do to help your upper grade students become proficient in multiplication and division tables?


31 comments:

  1. My kiddos that don't know their facts are usually the ones that tend to get overwhelmed and frustrated when asked to memorize them. To put them at ease, I keep reminding them that multiplication is SKIP COUNTING!! I show them how to make a multiplication chart out of a lined sheet of paper. They then get really quick at creating and completing the chart (which they then use when we hit fractions to reduce and find equivalents). My higher students that have already mastered their facts, use the chart to challenge themselves....I have some kids working their way through their 30s and 40s. Initially, we spend 15-20 minutes each day, but the time quickly gets shorter and shorter, until we get to about 5 min each day...To correct, students work with their table groups and the leader reads the answers as the others check theirs. Quick and easy!!

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  3. Whole Brain Teaching!!! They have a whole program for 'memorizing' in a really fun way! I started my 5th graders back at square one...and started with basic addition. Then we moved to Subtraction, then Multiplication, division, and we are currently working on Fractions!

    If you have not checked it out yet, go to www.wholebrainteaching.com and find SuperSpeed Math! My FAVORTIE thing, the kids enjoy it, it takes about 4 minutes a day, and all my kids know ALL their facts!

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    1. Sounds interesting. I am off to check out the SuperSpeed math!

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    2. Oh yeah, three cheers for Super Speed Math! I use it for 5th-8th grade math. We have a list of "Record Breakers" on the board for those who beat their own score each week.

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    3. I used this last year too. My kids loved it, and it was the best year ever on my 5th graders knowing their facts.

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  4. I use timed tests too--I love how quick and easy they are. I use sheets called Spaceship Math (have you seen that on PT before? That's where I first learned about them). They spiral up and have been a big help this year. I don't do the facts for homework in that way, what a great motivator to study though!! I am nuts about fact mastery though, for the exact reasons you mentioned in the beginning of your posts and I tell my students this ALL OF THE TIME!! I think I must drive them nuts ;)

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    1. I haven't seen Spaceship Math Kristen. Off to check it out!

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  5. The year I did "write them 10 times each" I had the highest number of kids who retained their multiplication with the fastest recall. I really think I agree it is the sheer dread of writing that much that causes them to study right the first time. But either way, old school WORKS!!

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  6. I have tried timed tests too....I have to admit, have cut back a bit because of budget cuts and all the paper involved and we even have a copy limit.....I tried a few new things this year...math packs. They worked pretty good. It is so frustrating though when they don't know they because EVERYTHING builds on it!!!! I have preached this allllllll year. Some care and get it....some, sadly, not so much....but I don't give up:)

    4th Grade Frolics

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    1. It is a lot of copies, you are right. Luckily, we aren't *that* bad for limits...so I can still squeeze the copies in.

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    2. Make your copies and laminate them. Have the kids use vis-a-vis during tests. That will conserve papers, and you can still have timed tests.

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    3. Or put them in sheet protectors and use the wet erase markers. Students can insert the correct set into the sheet protectors.

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  7. The math coach I work with had a competition between all the fourth and fifth grade students using timed multiplication tests last year. They loved it! I learned my multiplication facts using time tests, flashcards, and writing them ten times each. I like the organization of your system - responsibility is on the student to get the test. I am amazed that you are able to find the time to grade them every day! That is dedication to your students.

    Jana
    Thinking Out Loud

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    1. Jana, I have just done it for so long, that I am super speedy now. (and if they get a whole block wrong, I circle the block and honestly don't look at the rest of them...they obviously didn't get 100% correct, so I don't waste my time...I just move on to the next test)

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    2. In order to "pass" to the next level, do you require them to get 100% correct out of 44 in 2 minutes. I am a new teacher, and especially new to elementary school and I just don't know how much to expect them to be able to do! Thank so much for all of your tips and ideas on your blog, I have really been enjoying it!

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  8. I agree with everyone's comments...facts are a MUST, and the only way to learn them is "old school'. Carson Dellosa has a similar program to the Lightning Rod called One-Minute Math that I use. If they don't pass the level they are on in 5 tries, they have to stay in at lunch recess and practice with the Math Trainer: the BEST tool online!!! It's on www.mathisfun.com--my husband actually found it when he was frustrated with our daughter's "slow" recall!! The kids hate to stay in, but if they have to, this tool really works!

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  9. I found a really good tape from RockintheStandards.com It is familar tunes with skip counting. I have tried EVERY tape out there and this is the first one I LOVE! Check out the tape online. They have a sample. I have a few light up microphones that magnify their voices that I pass out. Then a few years back Mailbox had a paper microphone that I copy and tape to together so everyone has one to use.The first time they hear them they are reluctant but it doesn't take long for them to be singing along and realize they are working.
    I do timed tests but I use mixed facts. They have to write the facts they miss. I do the whole class at once for a while. I do 80 problems in 4 minutes. When they pass 4 minutes, they move to 3 minutes,2 minutes, and finally one minute. They turn the test face down on their desk and turn it over to start at the minute they are on. This keeps those that have mastery of the facts increasing their speed also. Then I let them challenge me at 1 minute to see if they can beat me. They love that too!

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  10. I use XtraMath and we go to the lab every day after lunch! We're still on addition and subtraction facts because we're little. But teaching double digit addition and subtraction has been a lot easier now that my kids (most of them, at least) know their basic facts. :)

    Marvelous Multiagers!

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  11. My name is Carol and I am not anonymous. I am not a teacher. This is a new experience for me. My little boy is in 4th grade and was on an IEP and I am getting him back on the IEP because he has so much trouble processing things. I also have an adult son and grandchildren My point is that I want to thank you for the resources you provide. The teachers use a whole different terminology than I learned in school and I sometimes get lost. It is nice that I can find things on line to help him.

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  12. I do minute timed tests...some of my 2nd graders even get to mult!! have always and will always do them!!

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  13. I live by xtramath.org. It is free and great repetition. I even put my kindergarten son on with addition. I love that I can check their progress, see what problems they are getting hung up on and how often they are on. It is quick and effective...if they actually get on the computer and do it. I have them do it at home, like you said, I don't really have time to work on basic facts in fifth grade!

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  14. Fortunately, most students entering my 5th grade class knew their multiplication tables. For those who didn't, I spent time narrowing down the equations that tripped up particular students. Then, I would work with them to create a learning goal or a learning contract.

    The contract would have a specific dates when a student would know a specific set of equations. They could practice with parents, with stuffed animals, or by doing online games. The tricky part for me was keeping track of which students set which goals on what dates.

    Google calendar helped that. Students plugged their goals into their calendars. The calendars were set to remind both them and me of continuing goals. And, if changes were made to the goals, I got a message.

    Learning contracts can save paper and grading time.
    Janet | expateducator.com

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  15. I have them make arrays, use multiplication puzzles, number ladders etc. If they still can't memorize their facts and once they know their facts for 1-5, I teach them the "finger tricks". You can use this for facts 6-10. Here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL3PtlxYkZ4

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  16. XTraMath.com Free and you sign your class up. It checks their work and takes about 2 minutes per kid. I leave it up on my two classroom computers every day and the kids rotate through. I get an email of how they are doing (and so do their parents if they use the sign up code I send home with them.) LOVE it! Starts them at addition and then subtraction which my 5th grade GT kids thought they were too smart for but found out different the first time they were on it! Watch the tutorial quick video to see how to set it up. Show the kid version of the video to your kids and you are good to go. FREE, FREE, FREE!!

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  17. I do the time tests too - I use rocket math. I did it with my 7th graders who unfortunately came in without their facts mastered, and I am now using it with my 3rd graders as they are learning their facts. I love the idea of the writing practice - definitely implementing that next week! Thank you!

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  18. Kids have to achieve automaticity with their facts and using timed tests is a perfectly acceptable option to assist in that! Of course, they will need instruction and extra practice along with the tests. When I taught 4th grade, I (loosely) used a timed test program. We also had daily fact practice time where the kids learned more about the facts and patterns that occur in them. They played partner games, online games, independent games, received individual tutoring, and used manipulatives (we had a rotation schedule). I think the tests are fine as long as direct instruction is happening as well!

    Janaye
    Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes

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  19. I just reread this and it clicked... we do timed tests (Rowley) every week - it's a practice Tuesday, practice Wednesday, test Thursday... and it's so boring. I think tomorrow I'm going to switch it up and do a test everyday, and they can use the practice for homework if they don't pass. The copies are already made from the district. Thank you!

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  20. Do students have to answer all 44 to get 100% and how do you use the cumulative tests? Thanks,I love this idea because there never seems to be enough time in the day to practice these. I think this will allow me time to make them want to practice them on their own.

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  21. Learning your multiplication facts does not have to be hard. In fact, depending on how you look at it, this feat can be quite fun. Repetition does play a role, but knowing some cool tricks can be the difference between success and failure.

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