It's As Basic As That

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Students will be able to increase their speed of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts.

Big Idea

Students need to master the basic operations. The common core suggests that all four operations are mastered by the end of third grade. This lesson will help determine where to start and what to do next.

What's the Fuss?

15 minutes

Students must know their basic facts in order to delve into the Common Core expectations.  In the past, I may have thought that as long as they could figure out the fact, they would be fine.  With new understanding now, I realize understanding and fluency are both critical.  For this reason, I decided to get a solid baseline on each of my students for each of the four operations.  I gave a pretest for each operation based upon my district's criteria. These criteria are that, with 100% accuracy, students will be able to complete:

  • 30 mixed addition facts in 2 minutes
  • 30 mixed subtraction facts in 2 minutes,
  • 50 multiplication facts in 3 minutes, and
  • 50 division facts in 3 minutes. 


I administered each of these fact tests to all of my students.  After reviewing student work, I created a four page packet of minute math type activities, which were individualized for the students based on the first, of the 4 assessments list above, where a student did not obtain 100%.  

Each math class now will begin with a 2-3 minute practice.  I set the timer, the students pull out their individual packet, and we practice.  Homework that evening is to check each problem with a calculator, as well as finish any problem they did not get to during the timed session.

On Fridays, I will administer the fact test necessary to each student.  We are calling this Fact Friday. It only takes 3 minutes and will hold all of us accountable for fluency.  

Mathematicians, I have a question for you.  What do you do when you want to learn a new move in soccer, or swim faster for your team?  Really?  You have to practice a lot, don't you.  It is always easy or do you sometimes need a few practices until you get it?  Well, it is exactly like that in school.  In our reading, math, and writing, we are always practicing something so that it can be easy and quick. Today we are going to do some fast math practice with the facts.  After I determine where you are ready to practice, I will create packets for you.  Each day we will practice and I know all of you will reach our goal.  I will also have you practice for a few minutes each night at home.  

How Do You Practice

15 minutes

Mathematicians, we need to discuss how you can practice math.  I know you all have practiced a sport, or an instrument, or a song, and even your reading and writing.  But what about math?  What does that look like when you are at home and need to practice?  Turn and talk to your partner about that.

After students talk, I have them write how they practice and post it on the "Jot Lot".  This will stay up for a week and we will read other's ideas, and add to it as we go.

Many students don't know how to practice or study at this age yet. It is an important habit of mind that we can teach and find approaches that work best for them as individuals.  I find that having students talk about "what math practice looks like" with each other, and then brainstorming ideas for ways to do this, is a great way to engage them in finding out who they are as learners. 

After building a chart of ideas about math practice together, you may want to send the students off to play some practice games. Top-It, which is like a "war" card game, can be played with any deck of cards. This game is also an application through McGraw-Hill. Students simply turn over the top two cards and use the operation they are practicing. (This game does not work for division.) Games should be introduced each week so that practice can be fun. I often send directions home to play as one of my night's of homework.   

There are some great websites that can be individualized and assigned for nightly practice at home. My favorite is XtraMath,  which allows me to assign certain operations to each child, monitor the progress daily, and it sends me a certificate to award the student when an operation is mastered. You might also like to open your sessions with the game "I Have, Who Has" several times a week.

This video shows students working in a partnership to play top-it.  In the next lesson, I work with the class on how to appropriately play partner games and devise class norms for these times. 

Though this may not seem like much of a lesson, it is another example of going slow to go fast. Setting goals with the content and creating time for the students to learn what persistence feels like is critical.  


10 minutes

Mathematicians, please gather.  Students, you worked hard today on becoming more accurate, or quick, with your facts.  We will practice every day until all of these facts are routine and easy for you. Doing this will let you look for even more patterns in math. These patterns will be the key to unlocking really fascinating knowledge.  

Right now, think of something you learned today in math, quietly in your head?  It could be a new fact or even an idea of how to study your math facts. Okay, turn and talk about your new learning.

Next week I will be sending home a letter to your parents to help you set up an account on XtraMath. This fun computer program will give you another way to practice.  Remember what you will do tonight with your practice page?  Can someone remind us of the steps?  Great. Now, turn and talk and see if each partner can remember each step.