How To: Teach Math (Drills)

In my last post I pointed out that teaching math has basically two components: math concepts and fact recall (or in other words: speed and accuracy when recalling math facts).  Last week I discussed how I teach math concepts and listed some curriculum options that may work for you.  This week I want to discuss the various resources I have used to improve my children’s speed of recall and accuracy when it comes to math facts.

I began home-schooling our oldest child and only daughter in 1990.  She was in first grade. At the end of the year she took a standardized test.  She scored off the charts in every area but one: math facts.  It seems that a common problem for home-schoolers is that they are very good at teaching the concepts of math, but they sometimes need more work on helping their children get math facts down cold.  The next year I spent time making sure my daughter knew her math facts and it showed when she took her standardized tests the next year.

I have been home-schooling now for over 20 years and have used a variety of drills to help my children get their math facts down so that they don’t have to stop and think – in other words, they need to have automatic recall.  One thing I DON’T use is flash cards. Frankly, I find them to be boring.  And if I think they’re boring I can imagine what my kids think of them.

So here are the resources I do recommend that you look into, to make sure your children not only understand math, but can also instantly recall math facts:

  • Calculadder – I place Calculadder on the top of the list because I believe it is the #1 best resource for teaching fast recall of math facts.  Besides being effective, Calculadder drills take only a few minutes a day to use.  I have been using Calculadder for as long as I can remember and will continue to use them with my youngest for probably at least a couple more years.
  • Math-It – I used Math-It with a couple of my boys.  It is sort of a game: it uses a large card that is divided into squares with numbers on them.  The child holds cards with equations on them and places those cards on the correct answer.  Over time, your child will be able to quickly place the equations on the correct answer.  Math-It teaches addition equations, “dubblit” equations (2+2, 3+3, etc.) and multiplication.  You might consider using this before using Calculadder, especially with a child who is very tactile.
  • Quarter Mile Math - – Quarter-Mile Math is a computer game that covers pretty much anything your child will need to know in regards to math facts, in a fun “race-themed” game.  Your child gets to choose whether to use race cars or race horses as they solve equations.  One advantage of this program is that your child can save their scores (so ultimately they are racing against themselves) and you can keep track of their progress.  Great resource!
  • Kumon Math Workbooks – My friend CaptiousNut introduced me to Kumon. Though I have been home-schooling over two decades, I had never heard of them until he mentioned them on his blog.  I started my 8-year old on the 3rd grade  “Addition and Subtraction” workbook just a couple of weeks ago and I find it is helping him already.  Also, because they use the concept of “levels” he thinks it is a game (along the lines of computer and video games) so he actually gets excited about it (hey, whatever works, right?!)

These are the products I have used over the years to help my children get to the point where their recall of math facts is quick and automatic.  If you have had success with other math drills, I would appreciate if you would let me (and my readers) know by leaving a note in the comments.

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  • http://twitter.com/ed_4_all Education For All

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for the great post. Vedic math offers tricks and techniques for doing math quicker and easier, helping students to build their confidence in handling complex math problems.

    http://www.Ed4All.org is our math blog that gives step by step examples, but doesn’t yet show everything Vedic Math can do. The Cosmic Calculator 5 volume series was recommended to me by someone to help learn Vedic Math.

    Thanks.
    Mike
    @ed_4_all

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by and letting us know about Vedic math. I will have to check this out myself.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    I also use money and fingers or other objects (e.g. pennies) a ton.

    For multiplication I have them write out a multiplication table EVERY SINGLE DAY. (when they are in this stage, which my daughter is in right now)

    I make them skip count when brushing their teeth EVERY SINGLE DAY (morning and night). Using 30-counts. “Count to 180 by 3s”…”Count from 180 to 0 by -3s”…”Count to 600 by 20s”….”Count to 15 by halves”…”Count from -300 to 0 by tens”….

    In the car, ask them how many minutes until 4:00? Ask them what time it will be in 43 minutes. Etc.

    Make them count out your change, EVERY SINGLE TIME you get some.

    • Anonymous

      One of these days my friend CaptiousNut will produce an e-book or two (or ten) that shares the wealth of ideas he has used to teach his kids who are incredibly advanced for their age, due to his diligent and creative work with them. Until then visit his home-schooling page for ideas (you can find it under the Kumon workbooks section above).

      Hope you’re enjoying your vacation. I am writing a paper for my class. I know, I know, I’m a loser! ;)

  • Kimarie

    Thank you for this! I’ve recently decided to get the math facts drilled into my younger kids (even my 4yo) so it’s instant recall. Things I’ve used so far that have helped (I also can’t stand flashcards) are Math Wrap-ups and 10 Days to Multiplication Mastery, Flashmaster (computerized flashcards with timing options), and simple copywork of the tables.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by! I could never get my kids to do the Wrap-Ups but that Flashmaster sounds VERY interesting. Thanks for sharing these products.

  • http://www.sublimedream.com The1sublimelife

    Stopping over from sits, I’ve always been interested in homeschool… I teeter back and forth with the idea. I like the idea of the quality of education, but not sure I could hack it mentally. My son is 3 and in preschool now. We’ve spent the last 14+ months doing all kinds of Early intervention therapy all day. Maybe I’m just too burnt out to think a whole bunch about math drills! lol Ever feel like that?

    • Anonymous

      All moms feel overwhelmed at times…this is particularly true for stay-at-home moms these days – I think because we get so little support and affirmation.

      Certainly home-schooling can be intimidating and overwhelming as well. But as someone said to me once, anything that’s really worth doing is going to be tough. I will add however, that once you get your “home-school bearings” it becomes much easier. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything in the world. I schedule my life according to what works for me, not the schedule the beauracrats in the school system set. I teach my child according to my worldview. And you can adjust your child’s curriculum depending on their strengths and weaknesses.

      I would encourage you to go to a local home-school support group or a regional home-school convention. There is nothing like getting around other home-schoolers to make you feel like it can be done. Not a single home-schooling mom I have ever known was an alien being with special powers. They are all normal moms who just want to give their kids the best.

      • http://www.oureducationaljourney.blogspot.com Sherri

        Very well said. This is my first time here and I’ve been looking for something to get my 4th grader and 6th grader to have instant recall of the multiplication facts. I will try some of your suggestions right away. Thank you.

        • Anonymous

          I am so glad you found me! And I hope you visit often. Glad that I could offer some helps for your children. I have my youngest (who will be 9 tomorrow) working on multiplication drills with Calculadder and addition and subtraction drills with Kumon.

  • Aardsma Research and Publishin

    For no “nonsense get it done” math drills you might want to try Dr. Aardsma’s Math Drill (www.DrAardsmasDrills.com).  The students do their drills right on line and each drill is adapted to your student’s weak areas.

    • annegalivan

      I have heard of students having great success with this and parents enjoy the ease of instruction.  Thanks for recommending this resource!