To memorize or not to memorize math facts? That is the question. The question homeschool moms debate when their children are learning their multiplication facts.
I’ll be honest. I’ve been on both sides of the pendulum. I’ve been the mom going through flashcard after flashcard trying to get these elusive facts to stick in her kid’s brain only to realize a few months later that it did not work and they can not remember a single one of the 9 times table. I’ve also been the mom who let her kid use the multiplication table cheat sheet for years. Neither method seemed to stick. And I began to realize we needed a better way to learn math facts.
To build a good foundation for learning, you have to “think differently.”
The best ways to learn are not always the ways that we are most familiar. In order to equip your child with the information they need to unlock their fullest learning potential, you have to start thinking outside of the box. When I began to research how to help my children learn their math facts, I found many different methods that relied on gimmicks to help them remember. But, that wasn’t actually helping them.
Answer this question. What comes first, periwinkle or rosebud? Did you immediately think “p comes before r, so periwinkle comes before rosebud” or did you sing the ABC song and think “l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s”? If you had to sing the ABC song, you didn’t learn your ABC’s in preschool. You learned a song. How do I know this is true? Because I can’t tell you any book of the Bible after Ruth without singing the Old Testament song.
How we input information into our brains is just as important as the output we express.
Input is the information that goes into our brains. “How” we get the information into our brains is actually more important than what comes out of it in either oral or written form (output). If we put gimmicks, mnemonics and songs in, then gimmicks, mnemonics, and songs will be our output.
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.
Every Good Boy Does Fine.
My Very Educated Mother Served Us Nine Pizzas.
Roy G. Biv
These are all mnemonics that we use to memorize common facts. Are mnemonics inherently bad? No. But, information that you need to use on a daily, repetitive basis needs to be better stored in your brain. You don’t want to have to sing a song or draw a picture every time you need to know 8x6.
What are better ways to input information into a child’s brain?
There are three “Keys” to unlocking your child’s learning potential – frequency, intensity, and duration. Frequency is how often the child is exposed to the information. Intensity is the quality and importance of the input. And, duration is the length of time spent on the input.
For math facts, this means learning math facts more frequently, more intensely, but with less duration.
Input must be useful input. This means that the student needs correct and complete information. For example, a flash card with the math fact AND answer included. It may also mean hearing the math fact read aloud or writing the math fact. In fact, all methods working together is the best form of input.
The frequency must be often. The student must see, hear, and write the math fact over multiple days. If you were only to view information once or twice, your recall would be limited days later. Alternatively, if you are to see this information repeatedly over several days, you are more likely to retain it months later.
The intensity of the input is the importance you put on it. Sitting down with your child to work with them one-on-one and an environment free of distractions are ways to put the focus on the math facts.
However, the duration of the input does not have to be for long periods of time. Research has shown that students will start to tune out after a few minutes and no new input will be received. So the duration of this input should be limited and short.
Good input in ten minutes a day is all you need.
Now, I don't claim to be an expert in NeuroDevelopment or even on teaching your kids math facts. But, I am an advocate for my kids, and when I learn of a program that can potentially help them, I do my research. Rapid Recall is such a product.
I met the creator of Rapid Recall at a convention in the Spring. She was lecturing on NeuroDevelopment in children and was giving the tips I just gave you. It intrigued me because, as I said, I've tried different methods for learning math facts and none of them seemed to be very effective. This new approach based on more intensity and frequency, better input, and less duration has proven results. So, I contacted her and asked her if I could try her product out on my kids. She graciously sent me the system, and we began using the method a few weeks ago.
We started with a Math Proficiency Assessment. I wasn't surprised by the results. As I said earlier, we had failed at learning math facts (at least at recalling them quickly). Both kids were approximately two grade levels behind their math comprehension grade level. So, I was interested if this program would actually help them in only ten minutes of focused learning per day.
The Rapid Recall System includes tactics to learn math facts quickly and retain them long-term.
The Rapid Recall System is pretty simple to use. It comes with a Teacher's Play Book, Computer Disc, Audio Disc, Flashcards, and Student Daily Review Book for each math operation. There is also an online version. This is the version we tested out. Each week the kids worked through one track, which is a set of math facts. Here is an example of a day of Rapid Recall Instruction.
Step 1: Listen to the audio track (2 min.). Wait at least 10 minutes before next step.
Step 2: Read the math facts in Session 1 (2 min.). Wait at least 10 minutes before next step.
Step 3: Fill in the Discovery Game page of the worksheet while listening to the audio track (2 min.). Wait at least 10 minutes before next step.
Step 4: Read the math facts in Session 2 (2 min.). Wait at least 10 minutes before next step.
Step 5: Do the speed drill (2 min.). And, that's it! Ten minutes spread out over the day in 2-minute increments.
But, how well does it work?
After six weeks, the kids retook the assessments. This time their scores had moved up a grade level. That, in itself, was impressive enough. But, that didn't surprise me.
What I had noticed over the six weeks was that their math comprehension had improved. They were able to answer questions a little quicker, and instead of focusing on the math fact, they were now focusing on the math problem. Was this due to implementing Rapid Recall? Yes, but not entirely. Because of our new focus on NeuroDevelopment, I had taken other advice from Mrs. Bedell, the creator. This combined with Rapid Recall has most definitely caused the improvement.
I have been genuinely impressed with how easily we were able to implement this program and how well it has worked. We will be continuing working with Rapid Recall in our new school year.