Rocket Math Strategies
Many grade schools now using various types of timed tests for basic arithmetic. This web site was originally created to provide practice worksheets for a time testing program used at a local school district. If your child's school is using a similar program, these worksheets will provide several variations on the single practice sheet that typically comes home for each lesson.
The Rocket Math programs are typically divided into multiple levels usually identified by letter, where each level introduces a small number of basic facts. The problems on each level are built on the The tests are usually given daily, with each test lasting one minute. Practice on the problems is pretty critical to success, especially if your child isn't one that works well under the pressure of the clock.
There are different Rocket Math levels for each of the four basic math operations. My kids started with Rocket Math addition in first grade and have generally worked up through the operations year-by-year, (subtraction in second grade, multiplication in third grade, and, still to come, division in fourth grade.)
For practice, as part of home work two or three times a week I'll run off five of the worksheets, usually two from the level my daughter is currently on and then a selection of three from the next two or three levels she'll likely cover. I'll then use the countdown timer on the site and run a five minute test. Its very critical that you grade the tests and have your child correct anything that's wrong. In fact, where an answer is consistently wrong, I'll even resort to having my daughter write the correct math fact out eight or ten times. Memorizing a math fact wrong is simply deadly and you need to catch this as early as possible when it comes up. Never (never, ever) skip grading a Rocket Math test. Child Protective Services has a special room for parents that let their kids memorize 6x7=56.
Anyway, apart from the raw practice these longer tests give, the logic here is that this is a much longer, harder and more stressful test than what she goes through at school each day. That makes the tests at school seem a whole lot easier by comparison. It does make create something of a motivation factor, and that's really the key hurdle to overcome.
For some of those trickier multiplication facts, it can help to print out one of the black and white multiplication charts and then highlight some of those facts that seem troublesome. There are a real cluster of facts in the seven-times family that can be trouble, and seeing how those facts fit around the other products in context can be a big boost to visual learners that carry over to the division facts as well. For addition and subtraction facts, counting forwards or backwards on a hundreds chart can serve as a similar reference tool if your child is struggling to remember certain facts.
Motivation around here comes in many forms. It starts with having a positive attitude around the tests, no matter what happens. Reinforce that the practice is what counts (not getting 100% accuracy or completing it on time, even though that's what you want ultimately.) Passing a particular five minute test under the timer usually merits a high-five and a serious break from whatever's going on... Maybe a getting a little time on the Wii with Dad or a Godzilla movie or something else fun. We'll set targets for levels and maybe working up to level 'N' means a $20 trip to Toys'R'Us or going out for a Quadruple-Venti Mocha at Starbucks (actually, cocoa for the kids... Dads need motivation, too.)
All the way around, the key here is making the activity fun and engaging. Making this enjoyable at home plus the success this will bring with testing at school will quickly turn Rocket Math into enormously positive experience. Honestly, how great is it to have your kids saying not only that "I'm good at math!" but also "I love math!"
This Dad was never so proud.