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Monday, November 9, 2009

Timed Drills...Living Math?

After my two oldest boys had spent an entire year struggling to get down their addition and subtraction facts, we spent a month or two doing no other math than timed drills in order to cement those facts before moving on in our Math-u-See book. It helped a lot!

In particular the drills helped my eldest son (then 8-9ish?) not to rely so much on counting with his fingers. There was absolutely no time pressure, unless they wanted to try to beat their old time. I just used the information for my own use. I kept track of the date, the drill sheet used, the time in which they finished the sheet, and number of problems missed. I had 4 drill sheets that I rotated, they had different combination of problems. I didn't tell them their time, unless they begged for it ;) But I did have them go back and do corrections. I must add here, that despite the increase in speed and accuracy on their basic math facts, the drill practice did nothing for their love of math. This lasted for awhile and then we went on in the MUS book. (As a side note, I do think it would also be helpful to pull out the drill sheets once every other week or so just to keep fresh.)

For my BOYS who are by nature competitive, the use of timed drills has been very helpful.

Secondly, just recently actually, I am seeing the benefit of timed drills once again. They are now 10.5 & 11.5, and participating in contest week, which has a combination of non-timed drills as well as timed drills in the format of a race against other students for the most questions answered correctly within a set time. It has given life to my boys' previously practically non-existent interest in practicing math... once again because of the competition factor. They have seriously spent many hours over the last week and a half doing math!! This is amazing considering one of my boys wrote the following last week:
"I hate math. I can read. I can spell. I can build. I can lern everything esily, but not math. Math is not fun, it is not interesting."
Because of the online contest he is suddenly doing VERY well at math. He is attempting problems he's never even done before and excelling! (I put him at the level he should be for his age, though he is a year behind to keep the boys together in their curriculum... so he's doing next year's math in the contest!) Yesterday, he actually called himself a 'human calculator'. So it seems that the timed drills handled properly can actually raise confidence levels (for him, I put absolutely NO pressure and really didn't propose for him to participate in the contest, I only offered the option to his brother who likes math, soon however, after watching his brother, he too was lured in :).

So, timed math drills have earned a place in our home, even though I wouldn't have thought it possible! :)

My opinion: I am leaning more and more towards supplementing our math learning with 'living math' activities. At the same time, I think that cementing the basic math facts is so VERY necessary that even if it requires nothing but drill (may it never be so! ;) they ought to gain proficiency in quick access to these memorized facts. Timed drills may not be overly 'living', but for the boys because of the competition factor timed drills have worked quickly, efficiently and beautifully. However, for some kids it might not work at all! For some the pressure of the time, or the fear of not doing well might inhibit success. In fact, if it would have worked for my kiddos to cement the facts purely through playing games, I would have loved it! But game or no game, they knew and resented that they were having to do math! :) I am super thankful for whoever posted the link on the living math forum to this math website, just when we were needing an extra boost in math motivation! I'll have to let you know how my up and coming daughter does when she gets to that age... she may not even need reinforcement of the basic facts if she keeps up at the pace she's going now! ;)

Well, there you have it! That sums up my research ala fisheracademy :) heheheh.

What is your experience with timed math drills? How do you use timed drills in your family?
What success or difficulty have you seen? What other methods do you use to cement those basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts? Would you classify timed drills as living or non-living math activities?


Joyful Learner said...

I think timed drills can be fun if you turn it into a game. For example, set a timer and see how many they can get right within a minute. Count up the total correct and keep a scoring chart. You can even play games like tic-tac-toe or pyramid games by adding the element of solving problems to win.

amy in peru said...

Yes! that's EXACTLY what we did!! The boys loved it! As long as they didn't turn it into a competition against one another, and were competing against their own times, it was AWESOME!!

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