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.

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