Thursday, May 10, 2012

Start Your Engines!

Fact fluency, like reading fluency, is an essential competency.  Although third graders LOVE learning their multiplication facts, and are great at developing strategies to initially discover products, not all are motivated to become fluent in their facts.  As much as we say that understanding is what is important, let's face it...it's just as important that they know them quickly.  Think about it.  Do we pull out poker chips when we are trying to determine how many cookies we'll need for a party of 12 if each person has 3 cookies?  Heck no!  We quickly calculate the product in our head.  

Having said all that, I am no fan of mad minutes.  I can't stand the time it takes as  a whole group to complete.  Not to mention the whole idea of kids belting out, "DONE!" and discouraging their classmates.  Then there's the whole non-differentiated aspect of it; which I've tried in the past.  Holy cow, this is tough to keep up with!  So, I was psyched when I saw two of my 3rd grade colleagues (and valued team members) using something called Race Car Math.  Melissa uses it similarly to Mad Minute, but differentiates.  Her students are responsible for recording their progress on the race car sheet and telling her which fact they need that day.  Laura uses it similarly, but begins with, "Get your engines started. VROOM! VROOM!"  Their students love it!

I finally introduced this to my students yesterday.  I tweaked a couple of things to implement it in my classroom, and it has created quite a roar amongst my kiddos!  After completing their math task, my kiddos grab a multiplication fact sheet and their iPod.  They open up the clock app that is standard on iPods (not on iPads, though) and click the timer option.  They set the timer to one minute, start it, and race their multiplication knowledge against the clock.  Once done, they place it by my computer so my paraprofessional or I can correct it when we get a chance.  As soon as they are corrected we hand them back to the kiddos, and as long as they score 95% or higher they can fill in the next lap on their track.  

A few things that my kiddos really enjoy about Race Car Math:
  • they move at their pace; they can take as long as they need to move to the next factor
  • they time themselves or their partners; it's cute to hear them cheer each other on
  • they monitor their own progress, knowing which facts they need to practice
  • they can customize the alarm on the clock, creating a musical sound in the room
  • they play against themselves, trying to get their own best time
A few things I like about Race Car Math:
  • my kiddos can move at their own pace
  • kiddos monitor their own progress
  • independence; they make decisions based on the facts they KNOW those they need to practice
  • kiddos are going home and practicing multiplication facts for fun
  • the excitement ~ I actually had to limit the number of Race Car sheets they do in one workshop because of  the high level of energy