Let’s Talk Math!
Math is not my friend, to put it kindly. I have struggled with math my whole life so when it came time to teach math, I felt sick to my stomach. Turns out, I really enjoy teaching math with my first graders! I love doing stations with them and being able to make math fun. As a new teacher though, I really struggle with finding ways to collect data that is quick and easy for me. But I’ve found a way and here is my little secret: math fact fluency tests.
I give my students a 32 equation math fact fluency test every Friday. They have 2 minutes to solve as many problems as they can. When time is up, all papers are in the air as I come around to collect them. I am so happy to say that 99% of my students LOVE these tests. It is so quiet in those two minutes; it’s unbelievable. I decided to do these math fact fluency tests when I realized that first grade is all about recognition and repetition in all subjects. Because of that realization, I have my students practice math facts daily in their math stations.
My math stations are very easy to plan (and more importantly keep up with) and my students always love it! Whenever we have a morning that does not include math stations, I get a very stern talking to from my students. Haha! My math stations have four rounds: M– math facts; A– at your seat; T– teacher time; H– hands on. Each station is about 10 minutes!
For math facts, the activities vary depending on what we are learning in our math book but the main focus is fluency. A lot of the time they will do flashcard practice or use playing cards to find the sum or different of their cards. If I am able to get Chromebooks, my students go on Reflex Math too. At your seat is always independent practice in their math books. Teacher time is always at my table. I check their independent practice then give a reteaching or enrichment worksheet depending on their work. Hands on is always a fun way to practice whatever skill we are learning. It can be a color by number worksheet, task cards, Kaboom! (always a fan favorite), fact families with white board triangles, etc.
One thing I will say about math stations is that it’s not for every class. Last year, I was not able to do any form of independent work in groups because they just couldn’t handle it. This year, my class is very capable BUT they do tend to get off task and goof off. That is where I really focus on making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing; which means the group that is at my table sadly gets the short end of the stick sometimes. When I notice students are off task, everyone has to go back to their seat and there are no more stations for the rest of the day. This shows that they have to stay focused and get their work done while they are in stations.
Math Fact Fluency Tests
I give my students their math fact fluency test every Friday because they have been practicing the skill throughout the week. Even though I give my students a fluency test every Friday, they are being tested on the same skill for the whole month. It’s so amazing to see how their speed (and accuracy) increases by the end of the month.
I also tell parents that students should be practicing math facts every night as well as their regular homework. By doing these weekly, I’m showing parents their student is or isn’t on the right track. I plan on working on a graphing system so I can take student data to IEP meetings or be able to pass it on to the next teacher!
Teaching second grade last year really gave me the upper hand. Even though I didn’t teach math last year, I know the routines that my partner teacher had. Knowing that gave me a huge sense of direction. One suggestion that I have for new teachers is to ask your admin to peer observe subjects that you want more guidance in. And don’t just observe your grade-level, see the grade level above you too. This has helped me a lot with knowing what my students should know and what habits I want to help start.
I hope this helps make math fun and easy for both you and your students! Don’t forget to download your math stations display for free here. You can also purchase 40 math fact fluency tests with free updates for life here.