Friday, November 4, 2011

Basic Facts Every Day!

When we look at all the different topics that need to be covered every day, it's easy to see how basic facts can slip through the cracks.  In an effort to avoid this, some teachers block out 20 or 30 minutes one day a week to work on facts.  This seems like a good idea, but for too many students it misses the critical window of rehearsal effectiveness.

We know from psychology research that memorization is much more likely to happen if the facts are rehearsed every 24 to 48 hours.  In fact, it turns out that shorter, more frequent rehearsal sessions are significantly more effective than longer, less frequent practice activities.

So the question is, how can teachers ensure that their students are getting daily basic facts practice?  
  1. The daily practice has to happen in the classroom.  It's a given that only some students will have the consistency and parent involvement at home to ensure daily practice.  
  2. Build in 5 to 10 minutes as a daily routine.  If you do a daily calendar or rug time, you've already got a daily routine system.  Including basic facts practice during this routine could be very powerful -- although you might have to let go of some other part(s) of your rug time.  It's all a matter of priorities -- and basic facts fluency and part-whole thinking need to be at the top of the math priority list!
  3. Incorporate basic fact choral response activities into transition times, such as lining up for recess or refocusing students as they are waiting to walk back into the classroom after lunch.  If you notice your students are finding a few facts particularly troublesome, you can do quick comparisons and choral responses for those few facts several times a day during small breaks in the action.

The second important insight from psychology research is that the daily memorization practice needs to be focused consistently on a small number of facts until they are mastered.  So if you are working with your class on Goal 2 facts, then you want your daily practice time to focus primarily on this chunk of facts.  

The third factor in making facts memorization time effective is that students need immediate feedback -- within a second or two -- each time they practice a fact.  Choral responses provide immediate feedback, although they don't guarantee that every student is actually engaged in the rehearsal process.  

Another rehearsal strategy that provides immediate feedback is what many students like to call "tents" ... pairs practice tents.  The idea with these tents is that two students can work together with the folded tent, one saying the number bond ("2 + 5 makes 7") while the other looks on the reverse side to verify the correct answer.  That person can nod or say "yes" if the answer is correct, or say "try again" if the answer is incorrect.  Teachers say that students really enjoy this form of practice, and it turns out that both students are learning at the same time!  (Click here for addition/subtraction tents and here for multiplication/division tents.)



Friday, October 14, 2011

Recording and Posting Key Ideas

Goal 1 - Ways to Make 5 with Part-Part-Whole Grids
Recording and Posting Key Ideas

As you and your students are sharing math ideas and strategies, it can be really helpful to create a permanent record of the key concepts, relationships, and strategies.  With these records posted on your walls, your students can reference them as often as needed until they become permanent memories.

Addition/Subtraction Focus:

As you're working on Goals 1 and 3 (Ways to make 4/5 and Ways to make 10), one concrete way to engage students is to have them stand in groups and move! 

[If the video clip below is blocked by your district's web filter, 
a more district-friendly version is available at TPR Ways to Make Five.]

This TPR activity can help students organize their thinking.  When you make charts to record the facts, you and your students can talk about the patterns.  

Once you have developed the chart with your students, you can incorporate it into your daily routine with a choral chant.   You can hide the bottom row and have the students say together "5 equals 0 + 5, 5 equals 1 + 4, ...".

You can also invite pairs of students to practice together in their spare time if you give them post-its to hide the bottom row.

Multiplication/Division Focus:

Even though students may already know and believe the Commutative Property for addition, it's important to focus on this idea when you start working with multiplication.  To make it really relevant to students, you can use word problems such as the ones below.

In this example, students can see that 4 groups of 10 (4 children each making 10 cards) generates the same product as 10 groups of 4 (10 children each making 4 cards).  You can record this in multiplication factor-factor-product grids too.

... and a special thanks to the
 teachers and students 
who created the charts used in this post!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to a New FactsWise Resource!

Welcome to our brand new FactsWise Blog -- designed to share strategies for building number sense and basic facts fluency for both addition/subtraction and multiplication/division!

You'll have access to a variety of resources here, including:

  1)  Weekly posts that will include images, video clips, games, and strategies to help you build a dynamic and engaging basic facts program

  2)  Pages that you can reference at any time for every FactsWise goal that will give you immediate access to the concrete-representation-abstract whole-class activities, as well as games and practice activities for small group and individual use.

I'm also looking forward to hearing from you -- what's working well, what you've developed to share with other teachers, and what challenges you'd like help with. 

If you'd like to know whenever I write a new FactsWise post, you can enter your e-mail address at the bottom of this screen. 

And finally, if you are looking for a FactsWise resource, I've posted the most current version of most FactsWise resources online.  When you get to this site, you should be able to download individual files or entire folders without charge -- you can just say no to any request to subscribe.  

Thanks for all that you do for students!

Timed Tests -- NOT the Way to Build Facts Fluency and NOT the Way to Assess Facts Fluency

If you'd like to learn more about FactsWise, you can freely preview a number of the FactsWise mini-lessons and game...