Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Organize Math Fact Fluency

I saw a question on a teacher Facebook page the other day about leveling math fact fluency.  She was a new teacher, and the rest of her team had their entire classes mastering the same fact; when the class as a whole reached 70% mastery, they moved on.  

I know.

Thankfully, she didn't feel comfortable doing that, and she wanted to know how to organize fluency so that it was leveled and students were working on the facts that they really needed to master.  And I thought, you know, this is one of those things that I just do without thinking, but the method is something I've developed over the past few years, and it really works for me.  And if you're looking for a way to organize your fluency program, it might work for you, too!

Let me start by saying that the basic organization could apply to any fluency program - Rocket Math or a program that you purchase from somewhere else. 

Our district purchased this for us a few years ago.  It's Rainbow Math, and I honestly don't even know if it's available anymore - the website isn't active.  But, I love it.  

This is what one of the drill sheets looks like.  As you can see, the kids have to know not only the products but the factors, too.  We do three one minute timed drills at the beginning of every math lesson, one minute per column.  If a student correctly finishes any of the columns, they've mastered that fact!

So, here's how I organize it.

1.  First, I copy plenty of drill sheets at the end of the year for the next year.  I organize them in files like this.

Rainbow Math has drills for each fact and then for each fact mixed with others.  So, once all of my copies are made, I file them in the folder for each fact.  I put a piece of construction paper in the folder, and I store the standard drills in front and the mixed drills in back.

2.  I have a master clipboard that lists the kids and which fact each one is on.

This is a hot mess, but it works.  Each student's name is listed, and the columns list the facts.  They get a checkmark when they've mastered the regular fact.  I put an X on top of the check mark when they've mastered the mixed fact.  I just write "done" by their name when they've mastered everything.

This record is the key to running the program.  With it, you know where each kid is in their mastery progress.

3.  Using the clipboard, I have a student (they pretty much run this program for me) pull the copies for the next day.  It takes a couple of days to train them, but now I can just ask her to pull copies at the end of the day, and she gets the clipboard, goes to the file, pulls the copies in order, and puts a binder clip on them.  

Then, right before math, I put each drill sheet on the students' desks face down.  When they come back from PE, they usually do a warm up problem on the back.  Then, when everyone's settled, we begin timing.

4.  I have a student whose main job is just Rainbow Math.  He was the first to master all of his facts, so once he did, I was able to hand it off to him.  He grabs the timer and the clipboard and tells them when to start.  When the minute is up, anyone who has mastered raises their hand; those who didn't work to finish the column.  Other students who have mastered all of their facts work as checkers; they walk around and check for accuracy.  At first, I'll check everyone's drill, but as more and more kids master, we get more and more available checkers.  They tell the student in charge if the student mastered, and he notes it on the clipboard.  Then they just repeat the process two more times!

5.  At the end, I will have students take home unfinished sheets to finish for homework.

And that's it!  At the end of the day, I ask a student to pull the copies, and it starts all over again!

There's a bit of work for me at the beginning of the year, but once I have kids start mastering, I can turn over more of the process to them.

When I get to where about half of my class has mastered their facts - which is where we are right now, I assign math buddies.  I partner up one student who has mastered with one who hasn't.  The coach is responsible for, in their spare time, working with their buddy to help them master the fact that they're working on, however they think best.  Some make flash cards, some have them write facts, and some assign them special homework.  This is one of my favorite things to watch - the kids are natural teachers, and the buddies respond better to their coaches than they often do to me.  I see them being so kind and patient with each other; it's precious.  Then, when we do our timed drills, the coaches stand behind their buddies, and if the buddy passes, we celebrate both coach and buddy.

It's not exactly easy, but with trained students it's a process that kind of runs itself after a while.  Which leaves you with time and energy for more important stuff.

Sounds good, doesn't it?  


  1. I love those math sheets - do you have any idea where I can get them.

  2. They're in the Rainbow Math curriculum that we have. I don't know if it's available anymore, though. The website on the front of the book is, but I don't think it's working now. If I find it later on, I'll be sure to leave a comment here!