Math Facts Revisited-They Will Not Go Away

It's Saturday.  Did you know that?  I had to look at the calendar to figure it out.   

I have to talk about Math Facts again.  Or, Math Fluency Assessments to be exact.

 Well, it has created some discussion amongst the peoples.  I've been getting the same three questions so I thought I should bring it up.  Address it.  Stamp it.  Mail it.  It's also a good discussion topic.  Which makes for a wonderful blog post.  

Introducing Math Fluency Assessments FAQ.   

1.  When do you start Timed Tests, Mad Minute, Math Fluency Assessments, Hurry Up And Answer These Facts, etc?

Well . . . my team and I used to start Timed Tests sometime after we had "officially" introduced addition and subtraction (in the vertical format) through our Math curriculum.  That's about 6 weeks into the school year.  And then we usually stopped sometime around Spring Break because we couldn't take grading them anymore.  You can read more about that {HERE}.

I'm not exactly sure when we'll start these Math Fluency Assessments.  It's a little different because the kids can work at their own pace at home,  and test when they are ready.  So if you've got a smart cookie that started memorizing facts in kindergarten, they might be ready to get started sooner than someone else.  I don't know.  We'll have to figure that out later . . . Put our heads together and discuss it.  I know we'll bring up this new program at our Parent Information Night--just not entirely sure when we will start it.  I'm not too worried about it at this point.  I'm mainly focused on making sure no one throws up or cries on the first day.  Or starts crying because they're throwing up, or throws up because they're crying.  (That particular first day is permanently burned into my brain.  Shudder.)

2.  What do you do for those students who lack parental support and almost never (or actually never) turn in a list? 

Well, I have a similar take-home program for my Sight Words (you can read about that HERE) and so I imagine I'm going to do the same thing with the math facts program.

When parent volunteers come, I'll have them work with students on math fluency at their level.  (The flashcards will be perfect for this.)  If they're ready to move on, they can.  No parent signature required.  Let's just get the kids moving is what I always say.  Well, unless they're supposed to be sitting still and then I say "Does everybody have ants in their pants today?"

I also have older student helpers.  Usually 5th graders, sometimes 6th graders.  As long as they're shorter than me, they're welcome.  After my helpers have pulled kids for sight word testing and math fact testing, I will have them practice math facts with kids who haven't turned in any levels in a really long time.  Again, I'll have the older helpers use the flashcards for this.  

I also have Watch Dogs.

These are not to be confused with actual dogs that I love.  If you have a second, check out this live web cam of puppies that are going to grow up to be service dogs to veterans with mobility issues.  I got this link from Denise over at Yearn to Learn.  I am now obsessed and check on them all the time.  It's a good thing they can't hear me, though, or I'd be waking them up all the time because I can't help but tell them how cute they are.  I also tell them to give their poor mom a break.  She has sextuplets and I feel really bad for her.  I especially worry that she will become like Kate Gosling.  When you have a second, check out it out {HERE}.

Anywho, big tangent there.  Our Watch Dogs are Dads that volunteer whenever they want for the WHOLE LIVELONG DAY.  And it doesn't matter if you already have other volunteers scheduled, or if it's your one art day for the trimester, or if you have district assessments . . . they get to be in your classroom, regardless.   It is never a good time when they arrive because I usually find out last minute  an inconvenience.  They are always helpful.  So I will definitely have Watch Dogs pull those kids who haven't turned in a Math Level in awhile.  Or in ever.  And again, if they're ready for the next level, by all means, move on!

3.  Do any of the levels have math facts that overlap?

Yes.  I wanted the facts to overlap because if the student knows that 3+2 is 5 on Level 2, for example, I hope that they'll still know that 3+2 is 5 on Level 3.  Or the inverse relationship, as well.   There are two to three levels in each "group" where students will see a lot of the same facts.

Here's how it's set up:  I hope you don't fall asleep.

*Addition - sums to 5 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*Subtraction - differences from 5 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*One level that is mixed with addition and subtraction facts from above.

*Addition - sums to 10 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*Subtraction - differences from 10 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*One level that is mixed with addition and subtraction facts from above.

*Addition - sums to 15 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*Subtraction - differences from 15 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*One level that is mixed with addition and subtraction facts from above.

*Addition - sums to 20 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*Subtraction - differences from 20 (with 2 or 3 levels)
*One level that is mixed with addition and subtraction facts from above.

4.  This is my own question.
Do you think first graders (kinders, too) are capable of memorizing math facts?  I know there are studies that show the brain is not ready to memorize stuff until you're 8 or 9 years old . . . which would explain why I never memorized my addition and subtraction facts, but had absolutely no problem memorizing my multiplication facts.  Occasionally, I still second guess what 16 - 9 is.  Just saying.

I don't know.  Math Fact Fluency is a California State Standard.  This is actually how it reads:  

2.1 Know the addition facts (sums to 20) and the corresponding subtraction facts and commit them to memory.

Sounds serious, right?  So I do it.  (Well, I do it in that I used to do timed tests, and now I have this take-home pack.  It's up to the kids to actually do it.  I already know my facts.  Most of them, anyway.)  And I'm pretty sure it's a Common Core Standard, but we're not doing those.  Yet.  Talk about pins and needles.

So.  There you have it.

Does it make more sense?  

I answered some of your questions and now I have some of my own.

1.  When do YOU start timed tests (or whatever you call it)?
2.  Do you have Watch Dogs?  Is it a Free For All policy at your school, too?
3.  Do you think young learners can memorize math facts?
4.  Are YOU watching Big Brother?  (I just threw that in there.  For fun.)


  1. Last year I didn't use timed tests but I did weekly math fact quizzes (starting after Christmas). I was thinking about starting A LOT earlier this year and also implementing the timed tests after we go through the quizzes. This post is so informative, thanks!
    Also, no Watch Dogs at our school... Lucky if I get a parent a month!

    tattling to the teacher

  2. I teach first grade in Illinois and my kids do memorize their math facts. They have 10 minutes of partner work with their flash cards every day, then an "on your own" fact worksheet that we grade (20 problems) then a fact sheet for homework every night (20 problems). I have to teach Saxon ("have to" being the operative words) and fact practice is a big part of their lessons. In the 3 years that I've taught first grade, most all of my kids have been able to successfully master their facts :)


  3. I do timed tests with my first graders. We start after I have taught addition and subtraction. The tests are typically started in November and continue each week until around February. However, last year I had some students who just couldn't get it and some students who were on top of their game if you know what I mean. I had to do the tests on each child's level so some finished quicker than others with the lists while others struggled up until March. We eventually all go it done though! Thank goodness!

    We don't have any watch dogs at our school, but they do keep an eye on certain teachers. If they see you are doing your job and the kids are learning, they don't say too much about what we do.

    I definitely think young learners can memorize math facts. Their little minds are capable of so much.

    I'm not watching Big Brother. I wish I could, but there just isn't enough time.

    The First Grade Jungle Room

  4. I started XtraMath (which I'm sure someone mentioned to you already) right around Christmas break last year with my first and second graders. Most of them did really well - actually, the two that far surpassed the others were little girls who started school a year early and technically should have been in Kindergarten. They are both pretty bright, but I'd say if 5 year olds can be fluent in their math facts, then regular aged first and second graders can too!

    At all of our classroom parties, I have parents besides my sanctioned room moms who come in and hang out. They typically find something to do... like supervise a station or whatever. But I have one dad who insists on following his son around and taking pictures like he is a celebrity making reindeer food at Christmas time. So the last party he showed up to, I put him to work right away and got lots of dirty looks. Maybe he will remember this experience next year when our parties come around again. :)

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  5. I love your idea about answering orally. Mine do the fast finger counting thing too! We start timed tests with our 1st graders around mid October and continue all year. "They" want our kids to be able to solve 75 problems in 5 minutes by the end of the year, sheesh I say! You should see the paper with 75 problems crammed on it, the kids freak out everytime. I so hate grading the weekly tests and think you're a genius for thinking this up. Sadly, I don't have anyone but myself to listen to them so I don't think I'd have time to do the one-on-one testing. I'll just stay late and grade away=(

    Your Watch Dog thing sounds crazy!! No parent is allowed in our classrooms without an appointment. I welcome volunteers, but after the first month or so it usually fizzles out. So I don't rely on volunteers.

  6. Kristin,
    I didn't know that Watch Dogs happened in classrooms across the country! Do you have the other dreaded problem of Helicopter Moms? They buzz around and around and swoop in on the kids until the kids start squirming around in their seats, hoping that the Helcopter will hover somewhere else? It is a serious problem here. ;)

    In second grade, we do "Beat the Clock" for 4 minutes and the kids have to do 50 problems. Now that I'm going to teach first grade, I haven't really decided how I am going to do that.

    Teaching Fabulous Firsties!
    P.S. I couldn't remember what today was either! Then, I remembered watching the Dead Files yesterday, which meant that today was Saturday. Sad, but true.

  7. I do additiona timed tests with my second graders once a week from second quarter on. (In May I let whoever wants to multiplication.) The sheets have 100 problems and we do it for five minutes. They raise their hand when finished and I say the time. At the end I call out the answers and they mark their own paper. They fill out their recording sheet with the date, test letter, their time, number finished and number correct. Homework is to finish/correct the sheet that night. Once I get them trained, it actually doesn't take too long and is not too stressful.

    But I feel your pain in first grade. Whole different ballgame. And maybe they are not all playing the same game. Or the one you want them to. Or aware you are playing a game.

  8. I teach kindergarten and I don't think it's bad for kids to memorize their facts at all. We did common core last year and while ours didn't have to "memorize" their facts, they did have to be able to add and subtract "fluently." In common core, they don't actually have to commit the facts to memory until 2nd grade, but I don't think it's going to hurt them in 1st :).
    Mrs. Plant's Press

  9. A couple of things...first I wasn't going to get your math assessment pack because I teach K and I didn't think it was for me. But now that I see your levels I think I am going to hop over and grab it. Common Core for K says that they should know addition and subtraction facts fluently within 5, and that they should be able to add and subtract (using whatever they need) to 10. So the assessment will be GREAT within 5 and then my stronger in math kids can go for more and more.

    Second...memorizing. Are they memorizing or learning? Kinders have to memorize the alphabet, they can do that. Okay...most of them, and it does take awhile and we do use flashcards to assess. Flashcards are great but it won't mean anything until they understand the numbers and the concept. Once they get it...having flashcards to start getting it quicker is a good idea. I'm all for parents helping out. Kids with "math brains" know...I still count.

    Last...WatchDogs. I love WatchDogs (not for me, but for the way the kids light up when their dad comes to school). We have them in Elko. Our WatchDogs visit every classroom in the grade of their student, but mostly in their child's class. Most of our teachers are not a big fan and we did tell our principal that we wanted just one per grade level on a given day. It got a little ridiculous when you would have two or three at a time. They can be a help with centers, or "testing", or sometimes I tell them I just need them to be an extra set of hands. I also keep a little basket of stuff a WatchDog can do if I get surprised (alphabet flash cards, count to 100 check off (because that takes for-ev-er and they are always needed to practice that), making an art project that requires one on one help and I really want an excuse to do it (in 3rd grade we had our WatchDogs help build popcicle stick Iditarod sleds with the kids). Once in a while you get an annoying one, but mostly they walk away saying...I could not do this all day, every day.

    Terri Izatt

  10. In first I didn't stress timed fact tests but our 2nd grade teachers really encouraged it. I started them after Christmas break. My kids love sumdog, ixl.com and xtramath.org. I tried to make it fun. I've found some great stuff on tpt. Your packet looks awesome.

    ✣ Miss Nelson✣
    Miss Nelson’s Blog

  11. I love your blog name! SO cute! :)

    Just diving In

  12. I don't do timed test. My bestest teacher buddy does. One second grade teacher says "she" can tell a difference. The other second grade teacher says she cannot. So who knows. I think kids can memorize stuff that is important to them, that they connect with, or that they like. I like your take home fluency packs. I have stuck them in my cart:) And Big Brother no, but I'm ready for Bachelor Pad!

    First Grade @ Storybook Cafe

  13. In the past I have started my math fact fluency program after Christmas. It covers addition and subtraction through 12. the kids move through the levels at their own pace, and the tests are NOT timed. They must get 100% before moving to the next level. The kids LOVE it, and everyone makes progress and gains confidence. This year, my grade level all wants to do the SAME thing for fact fluency, so we are looking at a few options created by fabulous bloggers. I have been excited to tell them about your approach, Kristin - it might be the perfect thing for us! We tend to have strong parent support, and we have enough parent volunteers that they could help the kids who don't get it at home. I definitely want to start much sooner than after Christmas. I do think that young children CAN memorize to a certain extent, but we need to make sure that it goes hand-in-hand with solid conceptual learning.

    We have "Dudes" and it's the same kind of thing - they just appear, and they're there all day. It's very random and somewhat discombobulating! I do like having the male role models, I just wish it were slightly more organized.

    I'm not a reality TV watcher, so no "Big Brother" for me... sorry, Kristin, I know that hurts you!

  14. Ok, starting with the most important of your questions...
    YES, we're watching Big Brother ~ Mike Boogie is a toolbox (just quoting Janelle)...sorry...

    Yes, we think young kids can memorize math facts if they practice and someone at home works with them. Those in our class who work at home and in class are very successful. That being said, for some it is hard and developmental. Some just aren't ready.

    We were totally intrigued by the first few notes about Watch Dogs. Never heard of them and love the idea but, you completely lost us at free.for.all. No thanks. :)

    Sorry for such a long reply...geez...

    We start our timed tests a little later than you (usually January), but along with our math curriculum. After reading your post and the common core, we might start earlier.

    LOVE the idea of sending it all home. Awesome!!

    Christy & Tammy

  15. I think young kids can memorize facts and should, it is to their advantage later. They have all ready (for the most part) memorized numbers, abcs, and sight words. Of course there are a few who can't I try to give them little mental or physical tools to help them. I love this idea of sending them home, I'm really, really sick x 209 of correcting math sheets. You have saved the day.

    Here she comes to save the day, teeny tiny is on her way ( sing to the Underdog tune). Lol


  16. I start timed tests around November (3rd grade - so multiplication). I have a great set that I use where every other test they pass is a review level. This makes sure they stay memorized. We take tests every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Kids just take whatever one they are on, though I do have deadlines. For example: If you haven't passed your 2/3 test by ______ all of your math center time is now independent study your facts time until you pass. This really seems to motivate the kids who don't have much home motivation.

    We do use watch dogs. We have an assigned day/time. We have some input, but not tons. Last year I had Tuesdays at 10:30. It is nice to know when they are coming. The only time it changes is when they Dad is the father of a child in your class. Then they visit from 8:00 until 9:45 unless they have more than 1 child. Then the time is split between the classes. I keep a watch dog basket filled with things for them pull kids and do if it is not a good time for them to participate in whole class activities.

    Sorry, no Big Brother here.

  17. Yes I watch big brother and no I'm not too impressed with this season. Finally there was some drama on Thursday night. But honestly I need some showmances, drama and more drama? Thoughts?!!!


  18. My school does Rocket Math- 1st grade starts with addition and only moves to subtraction after they pass all the addition a to z, because some research says they keep it all straight better that way. It's a fun program, with partner practice before the 1 minute test, every day.
    I'm watching Big Brother right this second on Hulu. Well not right this second because there's an advertisement going on. Which is why I'm posting a comment right now. Got to keep up my multi-tasking skills.

  19. I have used timed tests for as long as I can remember...some of my 2nd graders pass the additions, subtractions, AND almost blow through multiplication! it's wild to me! lol but then I have some kids who NEVER get out of addition - that is so sad to me :(

  20. We don't do actual timed fact tests in first grade. With my classes, I normally do a whole-group timing and we try to beat our class time. In our school, they do timed tests in 2nd grade.
    We don't have Watch Dogs, but parents could come in all day/everyday if they wanted to. I don't think anyone wants to.
    Kids can absolutely memorize facts. I have some kids that can finish a worksheet in just a few seconds.
    No Big Brother here. I'm more of a "Real Housewives" girl. hehe

    First with Franklin

  21. I was so excited to see your post about Watch Dogs! My husband is a National Coordinator for them and goes around the country training schools for how to utilize these Dads the best way. Sounds like your school could use a retraining. Our watch dogs follow a schedule and are only in their own child's room for one segment. They will see their child at lunch and usually recess, otherwise they are working in other rooms. All teachers have activities and know ahead of time because we picked best times and a Top Dog (a schedule person) coordinates a schedule around your best segment to have one. It is a great program to get Dads involved and I hope you enjoy it. Love your blog and our county says that fluency means fluent not timed in first grade. That makes life so much easier.

  22. Excellent blog post! Regarding the Common Core and memorizing, I'm pretty sure that memorizing isn't until 2nd in Common Core. I did a lot of research this summer, and our K and 1st grades are going to work on fluent number recognition and quantity discrimination. Here is a great resource to print out practice sheets: http://www.interventioncentral.org/tools/early-math-fluency-generator

  23. I ABSOLUTELY HATE grading those darn things! I also gave up around Spring Break! Yes, I am watching Big Brother (I love it!) Did you hear what happened to Willie Hantz?? SCANDALOUS!
    Kerri B

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. My sons school has Watch Dogs and my husband is given a schedule in the morning. He spends time in my sons class and 1 other. He is also assigned to help monitor the cafeteria and the playground/gym and then helps at dismissal. He is always exhausted afterwards and has a little more appreciation for what we do everyday.

  26. We use One Minute Math timed tests with facts up to 10. I send home a sheet and keep one at school in pocket protectors and the kids use dry erase markers for lots of practice. The One Minute Math is 40% new and 60% review facts I believe. We give then 2 weeks to learn it.

    The Resourceful Apple

  27. Great way to learn math. Good math article.

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