Timed drills for math facts?

Are timed math tests (drills) necessary and for what purpose? If necessary, how often should facts be tested? Are timed math tests recommended for students who have "math issues." , such as low confidence and slower progress.
I simply feel that timed drills are a tool among many, when it comes to learning math facts. Some kids will "thrive" on them, or in other words quickly learn when they are used. Perhaps they like racing against the clock or like the challenge. There exist computer games that are timed that can work very well for drilling facts. Check for example:

Math Magician games has a simple 2-minute countdown, and if you answer 20 questions in that time, you get an award.

Some of the games at Sheppard Software don't time you but give you more points the faster you go. That site is actually filled with several types of games just for math facts practice.

Yet for other kids timed drills may be counterproductive and end up in tears and frustration. The proof is in the pudding though. Just try them and see how it goes.

I feel timed drills are a good tool but not absolutely necessary. Kids can learn their facts so many ways. For example, some learn to use clever shortcuts such as "Since 7 + 7 = 14, then 7 + 8 is one more or 15" and actually perform that in their heads so quickly that you can't tell the difference if they memorized it or did some calculation. Some learn them by heart from much usage in problems, without being timed.

You're welcome to use timed drills with low-confidence students because you never know, perhaps a student like that has decent memory and can succeed with it. However, if you already know that a student cannot easily remember facts without context, then it might not work.


Anonymous said…
Timed drills are ABSOLUTELY necessary at some point. A child that cannot quickly remember basic math facts is at a distinct disadvantage in the advanced math classroom. As a high school teacher, the students who have the biggest "issues" with math are those who do not have their basic math facts quickly available. If you doubt this, then look up the numerous studies done on the relationship between math anxiety and not knowing one's basic facts. You do not need to rely on timed drills, but it should be a central part of any program that you implement. For further information check out interventioncentral.org/
Maria Miller said…
Well, I didn't say children shouldn't learn a quick recall of basic facts - I just meant that you don't necessarily need to practice them with a clock (timed drills). You can do drills without them being timed; do games, do pattern-based fact learning, post them on poster boards etc.
Anonymous said…
I agree with Maria. I have one child who is fine with things such as timed drills, and another who definitely isn't. And that has a lot to do with why we are homeschooling. I've learned that for my child who has difficulty with math, traditional techniques such as timed drills can be worse than counter productive. As a homeschooling parent I'm grateful that I can assist my child in "getting there" in the way that works best for him. We are working on basic fact mastery longer than the average learner would, but progress, confidence, and self-esteem are the rewards (they weren't when I tried to follow the traditional approach). I am more interested in my child mastering the material than in getting him to do it faster--for now. My opinion is that speed follows mastery, but is not the creator of it.
Anonymous said…
I have a son who can snap the correct answer to a problem back to you very quickly when you simply ask, however, when he sets his pencil to a paper he becomes very deliberate and cannot seem to speed himself up. I think the timed drills are setting him back because he is getting the impression that he is not any good at math. I've never seen a child grasp the principles behind the problems as quickly as he does though.
Anonymous said…
I have gone to school to be a teacher. My professors explained how speed drills are not necessary. Each child should just be able to answer by knowing the concept of what they are doing and how they are doing it. I am frustrated though, because my child loves math, and can answer math problems in a reasonable time. However, his teacher gives him a 1 min. speed drill every day where he is making bad grades because he is not fast enough. If she gave him even 30 more seconds, he would make a 100 every time. Can someone show me research that says these are absolutely necessary??
Maria Miller said…
I don't know if such research exists. I just feel that timed drills can be used optionally, but that they are not absolutely necessary.
Maria Miller said…
Timed drills have been discussed quite a bit in the Living Math Forum discussion group. You could join the group and search the archives for "timed drills".
Anonymous said…
Dr. Aardsma's Math Drill has a neat web-based (online) flash card drill that times the student against himself. Saves alot of work for the parent. Check it out! www.draardsmasdrills.com
The Spear Clan said…
Do you happen to have any good websites to recommend that have good mixed DIVISION and MULTIPLICATION math drills that I could print out to give to my 4th and 6th grader?

Math Facts said…
A nice addition drill for younger school kids is offered here: www.javascripter.net/games/math/
You choose an initial level to start, and then the site prompts the user to go to the next levels when previous skills have been mastered.
SunshineSal said…
A nice "no nonsense get it done" math drill is Dr. Aardsma's Math drill (www.DrAardsmasDrills.com) The student takes their drills right online (fun for the kids!) and each drill is adapted uniquely to your student. A great time saver for busy parents.
Factivation said…
I also agree with you that true mathematical approach manifested itself more in Greek scientific traditions than ahywhere else. The clay tablet I was reffering to is known as Plimpton 322. It contains among other increadible things very vast array of Pythagorean triplets. At the same time is does not contain something which is true essence of math - the proof for general case. The complete proof, as it is known today (and it is about 37 of them) is called Theorem of Pythagoras, because his school was first who offered it to humanity.


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