There is a debate on giving timed math fact test to students. I can see where some classrooms and some students may become anxious about taking the test when it is used to rank them and ultimately their school. I believe if you keep the environment calm and let your students know this is not going to rate or grade them in any way. It is a tool for me, and them, to use to see how they are doing. These tests actually increase my students enthusiasm for math. When I have them record their scores in a graph format they see them improving each time. If they don't improve it also shows them there are plateaus and sometimes decreases in learning. Not everything will be easy but it can be fun.
It is important to assess your student’s skills in the first couple of weeks of school. Do not assume that since mastering multiplication and division is a third grade standard all of your students will be able to do this.
Take the time to teach your students the process of taking, grading and recording timed tests. The first couple of times the process is just as important as the test. I've gone from taking 40 minutes for the whole process to 20 minutes.
The following lesson walks you through how I've been giving timed test for years.
I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and feel like I’ve honed my basic fact test to a very useful tool. In this lesson, I focus only on multiplication and division because 5th grade students need to have these down cold before they leave my room. At least that is my goal.
Double side the timed test – using the same problems on both sides. This way when students are checking their own work you only have to read off one side. They will then have the correct answers for the other side. Most students will not make it to the second sidso it is also a challenge for the students who do to check their own work.
I've included copies of the Multiplication Timed Test and the Division Timed Test. I have had them in my folder titled Basic Facts Test for years. Use these or you can find other online. I have also see some wonderful teacher resources at teaching stores you could also use.
Find some type of timer. My students really like to be able to see the time counting down so I put my iPad under my document camera. The one I use is an app called easyTimer. If I’ve forgotten my iPad I use my SmartBoard. Here is a link to a number of timers for Smart Notebook. Or use an actual clockJ I prefer the other two because they beep at the end of five minutes and I need the sound to alert me as well as the kids.
Before I start the timer you will see a few students start to trace a figure 8 with their index finger even with their eyes. This is an activity I have used for many years. It is from Brain Gym: Simple Activities For Whole-Brain Learning and wakes up both sides of the brain when their finger crosses over their own center line. You will see this happening in this video.
Set the timer for 5 minutes and get your students started.
When the timer goes off have your students count the number of problems they completed on the test. There is a mini lesson on fraction vocabulary in here. Have them write the total number the completed as the denominator in a fraction. Then have your students put away their pencils and get out a permanent marking tool, ink, crayon, or highlighter and put all pencils inside their desks. I really don’t mind what it is as long as it is not erasable. While they are doing this I tell my students that they are going to be grading all of their timed tests - Student Example this year and they are responsible for being trustworthy and truthful. (We take a multiplication timed test almost every Friday until winter break and then switch to division timed test. Before conferences and report cards I give both multiplication and division for my records.)
It will only hurt them if they cheat. They are taking these tests to compare to only themselves and no one else. It helps that I have a multiage classroom and typically my fourth graders start the year with a fewer number of problems completed in five minutes. I tell them the 5th graders will typically have higher scores because they have been practicing for more years. It is really interesting when a 4th grader comes up with the higher scores. It creates a little friendly competition for the 5th graders and then that 4th grader will push themselves to get more problems done.
To grade the test I have a weekly classroom job of math timed test grader. There is a job sheet for every table of 4-5 students. The students choose their jobs off the sheet every Monday. The student who has this job brings their paper up front and reads their answers. You could also have a Key for the students to read. I prefer not to use one because then the students will make mistakes and this is what I call a happy accident – I get to model how to respectfully correct a mistake. We all make them!
After the tests are graded have your students put the number they had correct as the numerator of the fraction.
This gives me two important pieces of information – the students speed (fluency) in completing the problems and their accuracy. I am looking for students to finish all 100 problems in 5 minutes. If they have more than three problems missed out of the total they completed they need to slow down and work on their accuracy. If you have a student who does not meet the 100 problems in five minutes it is something you will want to include the parents in helping their child. At the beginning of the year I send home a note attached to the homework sheet about the students timed test scores with additional copies of the test to practice with. I also have a silent reading time that lasts for 30 minutes everyday. I require 20 minutes of silent reading and then 10 minutes for students to work on what they need – finishing up work, using flash cards or practicing on the math tests. 10 minutes a day = 50 minutes a week.
Students who are able to complete the 100 problems in five minutes I move into multiplication up to 12's and double digit multiplication. It really shows them the process of learning because the move to the double digits is difficult for them.
I no longer collect papers and spend hours recording the scores – work smarter not longer is my thought. But of course there is a lesson for the students in this as well.
Have each student read you their score and write it down in your record book. I allow students who are not comfortable to come up to me and whisper their scores to me. This is usually not a student with a low score but the ones with higher scores. After you have one student who scores low increase their score the class will complement them and this leads to more and more kids who want to say their scores out loud and it is a great positive reinforcement from their peers.
I also keep track by highlighting any scores that are below 85% and focus on more practice with these students. Another reason to not collect the tests is because some parents would like to see the test. I give students the option of taking the tests home or putting them in their records folder and recording their scores on a Timed Test Records sheet. I do keep the first test and one test just before doing report cards.
You will see in the pictures of student work one type of Math Timed Test Record Sheet and then I have another Timed Test Score Sheet for you. I didn’t like the way student’s scores were recorded so my wonderful husband created one for me. Basic fact tests are not specifically in the Common Core Standards but we know students need to have them down as the foundation. This timed test gives me information on my students basic skills, gives the students an opportunity to build self-esteem (sharing scores and getting complements), an organization opportunity in recording the scores and a graph (built into the record sheet) of improvement.
I've found a few online resources to help students practice their basic facts.
I think I am going to save this one to my school computers for students to practice on. They could have a page in their math journals or records folder where they keep the scores.