Don’t Let the Ship Down!

There are many examples of classroom games for practicing math facts with speed. But here’s a version that keeps students active, yet is simple enough for teachers to assess everyone individually. The kids call it Rocket Math, though different from the curriculum published  by D. Crawford. This is a game.

Students get in two lines. Head each line with a chair for the “pilots”.  Reveal a flash card to the pilots and have them call out the answer. The student who first calls out the correct answer gets to take the other pilot to their “wing”. The next two are up. Eventually, the rocket will become unbalanced and be taken down by the winning team!

I’ve noticed that students aren’t over-competitive with this game because they come up to challenge a different person most of the time. If anything, they get a general sense of whether they need to practice their facts in comparison to others in class. Years ago, I had a girl who struggled in math and was initially defeated in each play of Rocket Math only to come back after a long weekend with every fact down pat and ready to show it. Memorizing math facts is a task that is more representative of perseverance or “book smarts” than the ability to solve higher-order algorithms.

After watching the 3-minute video, you can see that teacher has a strong grasp on a few typical assessments:
1. Which students can state multiples of 2, 1 and 0 with automaticity?
2. Which students know their facts, but struggle under pressure?
3. Which students count their multiples to get an answer?
4. Which students struggle with confidence?
5. Which students watch the pilots while waiting in line to get extra exposure?
6. Which students miss the same fact repeatedly?

I have used “Jumping Calculator” and “Rocket Math” as primary practice of facts in the classroom. The result is total buy-in from students, as well as kinesthetic, visual and auditory presentation. Most important, the games are quick and free up time in the classroom to teach math as a language and subject. It’s nice to not spend 1/3 of the year on memorizing basic facts!

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