Yesterday, I attended the last of three math inservices offered through our Board on the new Leaps and Bounds resource that we are using in our classrooms. As we worked in groups to examine curriculum expectations, we also started discussing different math topics. I mentioned to the math facilitator at our table that I’m struggling with what to do with drill sheets. Many of my students rely on using a calculator, particularly for multiplication and division questions. When they do figure out the answer without a calculator, it takes them a while, and the answer is not always correct. This year, students are learning how to answer more difficult multiplication and division problems, and how can they do so if they do not know their basic facts?

I am not a fan of math drills, and for students that need this extra support, I often suggest that they work on this at home with their parents. I have even posted links on the class website. I’m still noticing that most students struggle with recalling basic facts, and now I’m thinking that I may need to do more. When sharing my concerns at the table, the topic came up of Mad Minute. One teacher mentioned that she did this with her class and competed with another class in the school. She posted student scores, and then individual scores were compared against individual scores in the other class.

This got me really upset. I asked about the students in her class that were struggling. How did they feel? How did this activity help them improve? She said that all student scores went up, so all students should have felt proud, but did they? It really matters to me that all students meet with success, so how am I going to help students memorize the math facts that they need, while also focusing on individual student needs, and allowing students to communicate and apply what they learned during these drill activities?

I know that students respond well to competition, but if I’m having my class compete with another class, then I want my entire class to feel as though their contribution matters. I also want individual students to focus on their own scores, and look at their own improvements each week, instead of their scores measured against their friends’ scores.

As I mull over Mad Minute, here are my thoughts:

• I don’t want to devote more than 5 minutes a day to math drills. Math should be primarily able rich dialogue, good opportunities for application, and the thinking behind the questions. I know my students all need to practice the facts, so if they are going to do so in isolation, then I want this drill time to be short.
• I want to differentiate these drills. I differentiate everything else in the classroom, so why should this be different? Students can review the math facts and concepts that they need to review. If they need the challenge of multiple types of questions on the same page, then they can have this challenge. This will allow all students to meet their individual goals.
• The focus will be on growth. If all students need this review (and it’s apparent that they do), then the goal is going to be to improve. We always want to “bump up” our work, so why shouldn’t we in this case as well? Each week, we will calculate the average score as a class, but without names attached to each score. Then we can compare these scores with the other Grade 6 class for some healthy competition. We’ll celebrate successes, but without worrying about the numbers, but about the gains.

Maybe these short math drills at school will even encourage some students to practice these skills more at home. I look forward to seeing what happens.

What are your thoughts on math drills in the classroom? How do you ensure that this activity leads to “success for all?” I would love to know your thoughts on this!

Aviva

## 9 thoughts on “Mulling Over Mad Minute”

1. Hi Aviva,
I found that my students really struggled with this as well. I started putting up a hundreds chart on the SMART Board and we would do skip counting by different numbers while doing an exercise of their choice. They came up with creative repetitive movements and it got their blood flowing. They loved it and it really helped some of the kids that were struggling.

• Thanks for the idea, Carol! I think that your suggestion might work well as one of the possible math games that I’m considering now. Please see my comment below.

I appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this topic!
Aviva

• Thanks Carrie! I’m going to check out these posts for sure. I really appreciate you contributing to this discussion.

Aviva

2. Hi Aviva,