Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Just the FACTS, Ma'am

He he he...  When I Autumn was in first grade, I switched math curriculum half way through the year.  I searched and searched.   In the process, I looked at Abeka and noticed that they required daily practice of math facts.  I felt like I was already trying to do so much in a day and I pushed it off.  I pushed it off for two years, actually until spring of last year. I realized that we needed to invest time in the memory of the facts.  Without the mastery of the math facts, I knew my children were not going to be able to complete their math assignments in a timely way.  They would end up spending more time on the facts than on the concept of the problem they were working on.  This hadn't happened yet, but I could imagine it happening down the road.  So, I began searching for how to work on their facts with them.

I went through the addition deck with Autumn last spring.  When she didn't know a fact, I set it aside in a pile and she was to practice that fact aloud 3 times a day.  It seemed to help some, but I couldn't get her to understand how quickly I wanted her to be able to recall her facts.  

We pressed on through this fall working on the facts.  Sami was working her way through the facts as well, but I encountered a different challenge with her.  She didn't rely on her fingers, but she relied on her number line instead.  I had to take it away.  She needed to learn the facts and continue to be dependent on the line.  

Over Christmas break, a friend told me about a free computer facts practice program online.  It's called xtra math.  It looked neat and my kids started out with it three weeks ago.  It really is a wonderful program and is great for classroom settings and homeschool settings.  It could also be used by parents at home who want to supplement their child's public/private school learning.  Every day students are tested on a series of facts.  Then, they practice some facts that they are slower at recalling and a few that they don't know.  

It only took the first day to help Autumn understand how quickly she needed to be able to recall her facts.  As a 4th grader, she has most of her addition facts down pat.  But, she still needs work.  What I noticed right off the bat, though, was that in order to type them on the computer fast enough she needed either for a) me to type them or b) to learn 10-key.  I was thankful for this course of events.  My kids began learning 10 key the very next day.  It's been an easy introduction for them to keyboarding and they love the challenge of it.  I have an older typing book that they are using for the exercises.  Autumn just started putting in her own numbers yesterday after 3 weeks of working on learning 10 key.  

Sami, on the other hand, has had a different experience with the program.  She has greater gaps in her learning of the facts.  Looking at the computer and recalling an answer was very hard.  I began to say them aloud and that helped.  I think she is more of an auditory learner than a visual one.  But, she still struggled to stay focused on the facts for the length of the lesson.  I have to remember she's really the age of a first grader, who happens to be in second grade.  She does have a late birthday and her eyes are continuing to develop.  

So, I pulled Sami off of the program.  I copied the facts practice worksheets from the practice book for her math book and she is completing one sheet each day.  After she's better at 10 key, has had more practice with the basic facts, and her brain has connected more of the dots (doubles and doubles plus 1), then I'm going to try xtra math with her again.  

I do really love xtra math and it's perfect for Autumn.  She's finally understanding that I want her to know her facts right away.  The repetitive practice to learn the ones she struggles with is working with her.  

But Sami needs more time.  So, I'm reinforcing her learning a little bit differently.  She's still learning addition strategies and making the connections in her brain.  

I have to be honest that one of the reasons I let it go and justified not putting time into it earlier was that when I taught in the public schools we didn't have time anymore to help the kids memorize their facts.  They didn't have to learn them.  I had only 2 weeks to help the kids in one third grade classroom familiarize themselves with the multiplication facts.  I would use the word "familiarize", not "know".  But, this is a failing of the schools I worked at.  I do firmly believe that kids need to learn their math facts.  It will make math so much easier for them down the road.  I know my children really do need to know their facts.

Just as I was starting out three weeks ago with xtra math, my mother in law mentioned to me that her daughter's children are learning the facts through song at Classical Conversations.  I had forgotten about this, but realized this might be another avenue to pursue the facts for Sami.  I began to do some research to find some cds that would be genuinely helpful and edifying to my kids.  I am so excited because I found four different cds that I like.  Actually, I love them.  The first is for skip counting, the second cd is on addition, and then two are for the multiplication facts.  Over the next two weeks, I'm going to be posting reviews of these cds.  

So, that's the facts and my family's journey to figuring them out---so far....

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