Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Math Fact Motivation and Success

I think the biggest challenges when trying to get students to learn their multiplication facts are...

A.  There isn't enough time to teach them during the school day
B.  Students don't study them at home
C.  There is a lack of motivation and/or high anxiety when it comes to taking timed fact tests

I don't know about you, but when I taught 5th grade, the majority of my students didn't know their facts, which makes it difficult to teach just about everything in math.  To fix that, I tried combining timed tests with this data notebook.

I know, I know... some people are against giving timed tests.  But, this is so much more than the timed test part.  It's about accountability.  It's about motivating them to learn their facts!  How can you teach math without fact knowledge people??!!

Here are some things that surprised me in implementing the data notebooks!

1.  My students studied at home (yes, HOME!).
2.  They competed against themselves, not each other.
3.  They actually enjoyed taking the multiplication fact tests (WHAT??!!)!  No anxiety.  No complaining.
4.  I was able to indirectly teach several other concepts (like interpreting data, multiplying 2-digit by 1-digit numbers, subtracting, and mean, median, and mode)!
5.  Many of my students had a much easier time learning other concepts (e.g. simplifying fractions) as a byproduct of learning their facts!
6.  Oh my goodness, parent/teacher conferences were so much easier!

Here is a rundown of what is included in my Multiplication Data Notebook and how I used it effectively in my own classroom.

First, here were my rules (you can change these based on your own student's needs):

* Students have 1 minute to complete the test.
* When finished, they graph their own scores, and occasionally they will graph the class average.
* I remind them that they are competing against themselves, not each other.  I reiterate this throughout the year and make sure that I praise those who increase their scores, even minimally.  Students will shut down if they feel like they are competing against that one student in your class that knows all his/her facts before you begin using the notebooks.

Here is what you need (and it's included in the resource):

1.  27 multiplication fact assessments

You can give these assessments in several different ways, but this is how I did it.

1.  -- I started by giving a pretest (Facts 2-12's).  Students graph their pretest score (which is the baseline score) and the class average.

-- Every Tuesday, we took our multiplication test.  I started with the 2's.  If the students did well as a class, I increased one fact each week.  So, they would do 2's and 3's the next Tuesday, and 2's, 3's, and 4's the next.

If the students did poorly as a class, we would take another test on Thursday over the same number.  Then, we moved on to 2's and 3's the following Tuesday.

There are many different ways you can do this:
* One fact each week
* Adding in a fact each week
* All facts each week

-- When finished, the students graphed their own data.  If they had to take a test on Tuesday and Thursday, they had to graph both of those, so make sure the kids draw their bars fairly thin.

2.  Graph the Data

Each student should have a plain folder with brads.  In each folder, there was:

1.  Whole Class Pre, Mid, and Post Test
2.  Individual Pre, Mid, and Post Test
3.  Individual Graph for specific facts
4.  ALL graded assessments!  This way, the students can go back to analyze what problems they had difficulty with AND it can be used during parent/teacher conferences as a way to show parents how far their child has come.
5.  Goal sheets

You can also make a large class graph to show students their class progress on a bulletin board!

3.  Goal Setting

* After the Pre-test and Mid-test, I gave my students goal sheets.  You can give these at any time and for any and all facts.  I just did it for the pre and mid tests because I felt like it would lose it's luster if I made them do it every time.  We also talk about setting reasonable and realistic goals so that I didn't see kids giving up when they didn't master their goals.

Throughout the testing, they can track the numbers they know with this bookmark!

One of the best things about these notebooks is that when I had parent/teacher conferences, I had the students get their notebooks and explain them to their parents.  This was easy and the kids were often really excited to share that with their parents.

How to use these assessments to teach other concepts!
**2-digit by 1-digit Multiplication**
Have students grade their tests.  Since there are 50 problems, they have to multiply the number correct by 2 to find their total score.

Obviously, they have to graph their scores.  :)

**Mean, Median, Mode**
Collect all the students scores.  I used to have my students call their's out, but you MUST set clear expectations to do this.  Students must be respectful and understand that there is no competition between each other, and that we are encouraging one another to increase their own fact knowledge!  If this groundwork is not laid and the kids are not reminded before doing this each time, they will make fun of the ones with low scores.  Another way to do it is to take the scores yourself, write them all on the board, and have the students figure out the mean, median, and mode each time.  I didn't even have to take the time to teach this concept because the kids knew it back and forth by the end of our data collection.

This was the single most successful thing I did in my class in the six years I taught.  It is a must try in every math classroom!

If you want to purchase the notebook, here's a link!  You will not regret it!


  1. article you create very nice .. can add my knowledge. and I was very fortunate to be able to visit your blog. thank you

  2. I search many blog about the life changing but did not get many specific detail about the this topic but your blog have allot of information about my topic which I always searching.
    life changing

  3. I am very happy to discover your post as it will become on top in my collection of favorite blogs to visit.