If you have not already discovered Xtra Math, run – don’t walk – to their site. It is the BEST thing since sliced bread for math fact practice, I promise, no matter what grade you teach. Once you get it up and running, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.
In a nutshell, Xtra Math is a FREE (love) program that provides targeted math practice for your kiddos. You really should explore their site a bit before you dive in, but here’s how it works. You load in your class roster – which takes all of about 5 minutes. You can customize the program for each kiddo, so that those who need practice with addition through 10 can do that, and those who are ready for multiplication can do that. Then, the wonderful folks at Xtra Math have a video that you show to your class, and the online teacher (Mr. Robertson, a FOR REAL National Board Certified teacher in Seattle) explains exactly what to do. And, that’s it! The system completely runs itself. Let me say that again, because I don’t know about you, but that is music to this teacher’s ears. THE SYSTEM COMPLETELY RUNS ITSELF. So, when Johnny logs in and completes his practice for the day (which takes about 5 minutes), the next kid’s name flashes on the screen, and he just goes and quietly tells that kiddo to go do Xtra Math. The system tracks who’s been practicing, and how much, so it prompts the kids to get those who need to practice the most. When kids master a level (get 100 facts correct in 3 seconds or less per fact), they get a nifty completion certificate and move on to the next operation. Last year, I had a few who mastered everything, so then I moved them to level two, where they have to get the facts right in 2 seconds or less. And, yes, you can have it running on multiple computers at one time. Xtra Math also provides flyers, customized for your kids with a unique login, so that they can sign in and practice at home, too. AND you get a weekly e-mail update that shows how they’re growing! I can’t tell you how much my kids’ math fact automaticity improved once we started using Xtra Math. And they LOVE it – they’re totally motivated to beat their prior score.
My favorite part about it is that it doesn’t just drill the kids on their facts, it teaches them the facts. So, let’s say that Johnny is working on his addition facts, and he misses 8+5. The answer will be grayed in, and he must type in the answer to move forward. Then, the same problem will pop up 2 or 3 times in a row, and he’ll enter the answer. Next, a different, familiar problem will pop up, then 8+5 again! If they run into trouble, Mr. Robertson will pop up and tell them what to do.
In my class, kids get to the classroom as early as 7:30, and school starts at 8:00, so I have morning work out for completion, and then kids go back and get on Xtra Math. I have a pencil caddy on the computer table that holds laminated bookmarks for each kiddo with their logins and passwords for all of the computer programs we have. When they go back to get on Xtra Math, they get their password bookmark, enter the password, then move their bookmark from the left hand side to the right. That way, I can tell at a glance who has done Xtra Math and who hasn’t, and I’ll keep an eye on it throughout the day. Those who don’t get a chance to get on Xtra Math in the morning can do it during the first 5 minutes of math, when everyone’s working on Mountain Math, if they finish something early, or while we’re waiting for the bus. At the end of the day, my helper of the day moves the bookmarks back to the left. When a little darling masters an operation, we make a big deal about it, and they come to the front of the room to get their certificate. Then, they get to sign the mastery sheet that’s on our data door (I’ll post more about that later).
I know that our new Common Core standards are emphasizing the “why” behind multiplication, and I’m fully on board with that, but I don’t think we can neglect math fact practice. Kids must have automaticity in order to be successful as they move on in school – and life – and Xtra Math has really helped my kids. It’s such an easy thing to add to your daily routine, but it makes such a big difference.
Oh, and here’s a copy of my password bookmarks for you. Nothing fancy, but they help!