Multiplication worksheets are the most common way that schools measure math fact fluency, yet aggregating response times from so many different facts rarely tells you which ones a student is actually fluent with and which ones they are still calculating.
Here are a few tips for maximizing your effectiveness:
1. Assess each individual fact. You can use a stopwatch or let a program like Timez Attack do it for you automatically, but at some point it’s critical to measure which facts they can recall automatically and which ones they have to stop and calculate. If you don’t measure it accurately, you won’t fix it.
2. For your reference, fluent students generally recall AND input a 2-digit response in 1.9 seconds with a standard deviation of .6 seconds. Verbal responses would typically need just 1 second. A fluent student is automatic, but they are also confident. It’s empowering and motivational to KNOW the answer, so don’t shortchange students by settling for fumbled answers.
3. Report the results and do it as a letter grade. Few educators or parents will ignore a student that is clearly failing, yet the majority of students today currently have an “F” in fluency, yet they are promoted without a second thought because the shortcoming is only vaguely discovered and reported–if it’s discovered or reported at all.
4. If you have to use worksheets for assessment for some reason, at least do it in smaller chunks or lock down the average time. 2 seconds per fact will always be a fairly certain demonstration of fluency and 2.5 to 3 seconds per fact for 10 to 12 facts at a time will do a decent job. But if you gave an average student three minutes to answer 60 facts, they would answer the easy half in 1.5 to 2 seconds each, but then take 3 to 8 seconds to calculate others, giving only the illusion of fluency.
5. Don’t settle. Fluency is a core skill, yet the average student today plateaus in the 5th-grade with just 59% mastery–essentially the easy facts. Would you promote a student that had only learned 59% of the alphabet? Timez Attack delivers 95% fluency in a matter of hours, so there’s no need to handicap students for the rest of their math careers.
6. Finally, don’t assume that student fluency will magically improve “somehow” after they leave your class. Adopt the attitude, “If I send a student out the door with poor fluency, I’m likely ensuring they will struggle with math for the rest of their life.”
I’ll wrap up with some general advice. Learning multiplication is hard, so block out the time for it. But it’s also completely doable, so don’t let failure be an option. Timez Attack can knock it out easily for you in a matter of hours and can be absolutely free. No worries if you prefer a different way but whichever path you choose, make sure your students cross the finish line.