My husband posted a blog a month or so ago on xtramath. For those of you who haven’t used it before, it’s a free online program that helps kids memorize their math facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Zach explained how much easier it is to use than other paper-based programs like Rocket Math, which are great, but take lots of photocopying and correcting. Additionally, xtramath gives kids 3 seconds to answer each question, so it is easily able to pinpoint which math facts kids need more work on – and consequently give them practice on them.
Today I’d like to outline why I think every elementary school student needs to be on xtramath (or a program like it), and memorize their math facts.
Avoid Frustration of the “Silly Mistake”
The students in my class are working on 3-digit addition and subtraction with regrouping. They are doing a fantastic job of carefully adding the ones place first, then the tens and hundreds places, and putting their new ten or hundred that they made exactly where it needs to be. But for me, nothing is more frustrating than watching them work slowly and carefully, thinking about each and every step and then getting the entire problem wrong because they thought 8 + 3 was 12. That mistake is avoidable and will be avoided once they learn their facts.
It Holds Kids Accountable for Their Learning
Every few days, I share with my students their percentage completed (out of 100 math facts). They remember their old scores and work as hard as they can to beat them. Xtramath tests kids on facts they have already mastered and will bump them up if they master more or down if they forget them. This teaches kids to focus and that their effort has a direct relationship with how well they do. By doing this, kids can articulate to me “Oh no! I went down. I need to concentrate next time.”
Learn Multiplication, Division, and to Manipulate Fractions with Ease
From my experience, the students who struggle to learn how to multiply and divide also don’t know how to add and subtract. How can you expect a student to know that 3 x 4 = 12 if they don’t know that 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12 and can’t count by 3s or 4s?
On a similar level, manipulating fractions is either incredibly fun for students who have learned their multiplication and division facts or a nightmare for those who haven’t. Fact proficient students asked to simplify 8/12 can immediately tell that both 8 and 12 are multiples of 4, divide, and get 2/3 as their answer. Often students who don’t know their facts will frustratingly have to result to trial and error.
Life in General is Easier
Although it is true that almost all of us carry calculators in our phones wherever we go, knowing one’s basic math facts still makes life easier. For everything from figuring out how much food to by for X number of people, to how many cars are needed to take us all home, to how long do I have before I need to refill my prescription – we solve math problems (whether correctly or not) every day.
Sign your kids up, have them practice every day, and watch as they become more confident and successful!