Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prayer

Please pray for the people of eastern Ukraine.  They are a strong, resourceful, and very capable people, but they are going through a very hard time right now.  Some have lost businesses, homes, friends, and even family.  Many have died.  The news becomes personal when you know and love the people in it.  Math Facts Pro's database programmer and his family is leaving Donets'k Saturday because of all the shelling and destruction.  I can't imagine what it would be like to live under the threat of take over by another country, or to be in danger for my life, or to have to flee and leave most of my possessions behind.  We are very blessed in my country, and we pray for the Ukraine.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Math Fact Puzzles!

Just found some fun math fact puzzles!  They were in a good PowerPoint presentation by Paula Swanson, from Boise, Idaho.  She has a good summary of the research, and some great practical applications, which include conceptual learning.  It's worth the read, if you are looking for more information/resources.  We really hope to implement some research based changes when we convert our program out of Flash, especially allowing teachers to focus on fact families and select the fact order they use in teaching their classes.  Meanwhile, here are some Word documents for Math Fact Find and Math Fact Jumble that you can easily adapt to your needs: to different levels, operators, etc.  Each file has a addition/subtraction example, and a multiplication/division example, as well as a blank form that can be used to create your own (or for students to create them).  Here the Math Fact Find and Math Fact Jumble documents in .pdf format.  And below you can see what the puzzles look like.  Have Fun!

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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Key Ingredient in Fluency

We just finished analyzing the data we have at Math Facts Pro to see whether or not we were really making a difference in our effort to help students become fluent.  We wrote a research paper about what we found, and how Math Facts Pro meets the qualifications for Response to Intervention, tiers 1,2, and 3.  (I suppose that kind of lets the cat out of the bag.)

The key ingredient that we found was the amount of practice.  The more students practiced, the more they learned.  (I know you're really surprised.)  Our data consists of students who logged-in to practice on Math Facts Pro.  We studied the addition operator, because it actually gets the most use, and we ignored the first 2 weeks of data, to differentiate between facts that students already knew, and facts that became fluent as a result of using Math Facts Pro.  To determine effectiveness, we compared the amount of practice to the amount of new learning; specifically, facts that were learned for the first time after the two week period, and that never fell out of fluency.  You can see our definition of fluency in the report.  What we found was that students who used the site less than 50 facts (5 minutes) per week, averaged 2.2 newly fluent facts per week, while students practicing 250 facts (5 minutes daily) per week, averaged 10.5.  Almost 5 times as many!  Since we did not control any other variables, we can not prove what caused the difference.  I'm sure that some teachers/parents who successfully get their students to practice regularly are also more successful in other aspects of teaching.  But I'm convinced the main difference is just how much they practiced, which is what we measured.  Math Facts in a Flash™ says that, of all their users, they do not have any grade levels where at least 35% of the students practice just three times a week.  With Math Facts Pro, the average student can learn from 10 - 20 new facts each week.  If you assign the practice as homework, you can even log-in in the morning and see who did it, how much they did, and hold them accountable for their learning.  Just 5 - 10 minutes a day.  Here's a look at our results:

So you learn math facts the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.  My advice is to practice smartly, with an effective, efficient program.  You don't have to spend a lot of money, just $1/student/year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Math Facts Pro: Now on Amazon Web Services!

After many trials and tribulations, we have migrated Math Facts Pro to the cloud with Amazon!  We are really excited about the new server stability.  Thanks for your patience - we hope you'll find it to be worth it.  If you are still having issues, please let us know through the contact or help forms.
Mark Berg

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Math Facts Pro server issues

Our current server does not seem to be stable any longer.  If you have had problems logging in, or with students using the site, this is likely the problem.  We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.  If the site seems to hang up, you will likely have the most success by closing the current browser tab and starting fresh in a new one.

To remedy the problem, we are moving the site to an Amazon hosted server.  This will take a few days, but we hope to have the move completed by September 9, 2013.  If you try the site very early in the morning this Thursday or Friday (US Central time) and get nothing, it will probably be because the site has moved and the Internet is in the process of updating the new server address. (max 6 hours)  The good news is that this should solve the problem.  If Amazon isn't running, nobody's running:)  Again, we are sorry for the trouble, and we thank you for your support.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Common Core Standards

Math Facts Pro targets the Common Core Standards dealing with fluency.  Specifically:

CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.6 Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10.
CCSS.Math.Content.2.OA.B.2 Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies.2 By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.
CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.C.7 Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 × 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.


Of course, fluency with the basic math facts is as important to higher math as phonics is to reading.  Students above 3rd grade who are not fluent tend to fall further and further behind, something we are working very hard to prevent.  One of the benefits of Math Facts Pro is that you can quickly learn for each student which facts they are/are not fluent in, and then target practice to fix the problem.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Good Software vs. Pencil/Paper Timed Math Facts Tests


Knowing which facts your students are fluent in is critical if you are going to help them achieve fluency in the facts.  The question is, "What's the best way to ascertain fluency?"  Here's my take on the advantages of good software over pencil/paper timed math facts tests.  You expected that, right:)

1)  Automatic (instant) grading, need I say more.
2)  Good software will tell you if the student is fluent.  On a pencil/paper test, all you know is that, on average, they were fast enough.  They may be really fast on the easy ones, and have to count on their fingers on the hardest ones, but they can still beat the time.  Good software checks fluency for each fact on its own.  And this fluency is a different speed for each student.  We've all had students who could count on their fingers faster than other students could automatically recall the answer.  So good software will have a way to determine how fast each student is; faster for some, slower for others.  That way, fast students can’t count, and slow students aren't frustrated.
3)  Instant feedback – it took me a long time to figure out why it actually takes longer to do 100 facts on Math Facts Pro than it does on pencil paper.  The main difference is that the student gets immediate feedback for every answer.  Quick feedback if they are right, longer exposure to the correct answer if they were wrong.  (And, if allowed, we throw in a joke every 20 – 30 facts, too, depending on the grade level.)
4)  Good software will never show the student the wrong answer, which is especially important for visual learners.  (It's also not multiple choice, which tests recognition, not fluency.  I'll get off my soap box now.)
5)  If a student gets an answer wrong, good software will come back to it again.  If they repeatedly get it wrong, it will try to teach it.  The test is actually a learning tool.
6)  The data is based on all attempts the student has ever made, not just the one attempt on the last test.  Mastery is defined by educational psychologist as a certain number of correct rehearsals with no mistakes.  With pencil/paper, you just get one shot.  Maybe your handwriting was sloppy because you were going so fast.
7)  Less frustration.  Good software adjusts the difficulty of the questions, so each student spends more time on the facts they need to be working on.  High students get harder questions - they will get frustrated having to do all the 1's, 2's, 3's.  Low students get easier ones.  Not too easy, just easy enough not to discourage them and keep them going.  What is the point of asking them the 8's and 9's if you know they don't know them?  Differentiated instruction and assessment.
8)  Random.  The student never has any idea which problem will be next, so they can’t memorize the answers.
9)  Instant tracking.  When they get to the results page, the student not only sees how many facts they are fluent in, they can see how they've been improving (how far they've come).
10)  Good software like Math Facts Pro (did you see that coming?) is constantly improvingJ  For example, next week (the week of April 8, 2013), we are hoping to launch the beta versions of Math Fact Scramble (which will help students move from fact strategies to fluency), and Contig (which will help students mentally manipulate the facts).  It will still be awhile, though, before they are tied into the database, but at least the students will have a new, fun way to improve their fluency.