Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fast Math Facts…

Esmé was introduced to Math-A-Minute at school this week.  Each day she has two minutes to finish 15 problems correctly.  If she succeeds, the next day’s problems are a little harder

imageShe’s a math constructivist, not a lover of repetitious calculations.  And she’s completely time-challenged.  This should be fun, you think?  She does know her basic addition facts well, so we’ll see how it goes.

First day went fine.  On to the next level.

She brought her practice sheet home.  First time through, she completed all 15 problems with 10 seconds to spare.  On her second practice run, she only got through 13.

I noticed she had spent longer than expected on 9+4.  Anything with 9 is usually a piece of cake.  So I asked her about it.

“I added 2 to the 9 to make 11.  Then I had to take the 2 from the 4, which made 2.  So then I had to add 2 to 11,” she explained.

Huh?  If it weren’t for the glint in her eye, I would’ve thought we failed somewhere in our explanation of adding to 10s.  Little Miss Constructivist is just taking her time messing around with numbers, it seems.

I let it go.

On her second day at school, she only got 9 problems done.  I had her do another practice run at home afterwards.  8 problems.  She’s spending too much time on problems like 2+2 and 3+0.

From 15 completed problems with time to spare, to 13, to 9, to 8.  Hogwash.

So I find worksheets online at the same level and printed a bunch of them off.  Little Miss IS going to keep doing this until she gets 15 problems done in two minutes.

She takes me a bit more seriously.  13 on the next run, 13 on the next run, and finally, she gets 19 done before the 2-minute timer buzzes.  We quit for the day.

The next day at school, she gets 10 problems done.  She’s pleased – it’s better than 9.

I’m not pleased.

She tells me, “I need to do it in an empty room with black walls.  Then I can do it faster.”

Coincidentally, IMACS comes out with an article, “Mathematical Talent and the Timed Arithmetic Test” on that very day.  I smile and relax.  Her timed score is not a reflection of her innate ability.  I know that already – it’s just nice to have some reinforcement.

With a little online research, I realize that timed math facts tests have gotten a bad rap in recent years.  They don’t necessarily measure math ability.  They even create a hatred for math or false feelings of inadequacy for those who don’t do well.

And yet…

There are so many benefits to being able to do calculations quickly.  Not to mention, it’s good that Miss Esmé is being challenged mathematically – even if only by time – in school.  I like Hoagies’ perspective on it:  “Why Memorize Math Facts?

So I sit back.  And watch.  And wait.  Yes, this should be fun…


Brenda Thompson said...

I am a huge fan of letting a kid take their time with math problems. Some kids need a little more time to get to the answer than others. I hate these time tests because I was a kid who was really intelligent but it took me longer to finish problems. Timing tests makes kids rush and make mistakes.