Teaching Tip Tuesday – Math Drills

I think it is important for children to learn the basic number facts. In this day and age, we can get too caught up in letting technology solve all of our problems for us. It is too easy to reach for a calculator or use the one built into our computers to solve basic problems. But a majority of the time, I’d be able to beat you in a race. By the time you got a calculator out and ready, I could have the problem solved either in my head or using a piece of paper and a pencil.

I often see kids in school counting on their fingers, even in the older grades, and I wonder why they have not yet memorized the basic number facts.

I think teachers should have kids do computational math every day. That’s why I start off every math class with a timed 5-minute drill. I pass out the worksheets face down until everyone in the class is ready. I then say, “Turn your paper over. Write your name at the top. Time starts now.” I set a timer that beeps when time expires and I find that kids actually like racing against the clock to see how many questions they can complete in time.

I have then the students graph their daily progress so they can see how they are actually improving, Students are surprised to see that their scores go up and their times often go down. If gives them something to shoot for.

I cycle through a different skill every two weeks. I like to start off with addition and then move to multiplication. I use a resource called The Mad Minute because it works through the four operations in a logical sequence. But I move beyond the four basic operations to include comparing numbers, fractions, missing terms, and algebra.

You don’t need to buy a book to find good math drills. This site is excellent. I like that it has themed worksheets for Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and more. It is really worth checking out. http://math-drills.com/

By doing computational math daily, kids learn their number facts so they will be able to remember that 6 = 7 always equals 13 and they will no longer need to use their fingers or a ruler to help them. This saves them time in solving more complex problems and helps them in life to add up grocery bills or anything else.

So I suggest starting off every math lesson with a timed drill. It gives the class a routine, helps them practise creating graphs, and gives them reachable goals. Go give it a try and let me know how it goes.

6 Comments on Teaching Tip Tuesday – Math Drills

  1. thanks for the site posting. my kid needs extra help in math and i don't always understand the reasoning behind why they teach more than one way to subtract. i'm more frustrated with the work than she is. worksheets some with noooo instructions. the kid better remember what they did in school or they are uh, well out of luck. will book mark the site

  2. Hi Natural,

    The reason we teach that there is more than one way to solve a problem is to encourage children to come up with their own ideas and realize that they can do the work.

    But I do agree that they should be taught their number facts and one of the best ways to do so is daily computational practice.

  3. What amazes me is that our great grandparents, in those old one-roomed school houses, were EXPECTED to be able to solve long division problems — in their heads!

  4. Hi ECD,

    I think it does go to back to expectations. No one expects us to do basic math in our heads these days anymore. But I do see the value in it so I try to teach it to my students.

  5. Anonymous // July 24, 2012 at 9:40 am //

    Great suggestion!
    I love the idea of starting each math session with a drill. One question – do they create one graph per month or per week or how do you have them graph their progress? thank you!

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    I usually have the same type of drill for two weeks. That way, we graph our progress every two weeks and create a new graph each time.

    Hope that helps. If you have any other ideas, questions, or suggestions, please don't hesitate to ask.

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