Rapid Recall of Number Facts

This article wasn’t written to validate or critique the use of drill and practice style activities within the classroom. I believe that rapid recall of basic number facts is still essential for students, therefore, I am sharing ideas for teachers on how to set up drill and practice style activities using iPads and or free online resources.

Last year I trialled the use of drill and practice through iPads with several students. Initially I introduced a free drill and practice style app called Flash to Pass (android equivalent Mental Math ?) with two students who were experiencing difficulty with recalling basic number facts with speed and accuracy. The students, who were 8 years of age, were still using their fingers to add basic 1-10 addition and subtraction number facts. Each day for a period of 10 weeks, both students individually completed 50 questions and the time taken to calculate their answers was recorded. At the end of the 10 week period both students were mentally calculating addition facts for numbers 1-20 and subtraction facts for numbers 1-10 without the use of their fingers.

You may be asking, couldn’t the same be achieved if students were answering the same questions using pencil and paper? My personal response would be, yes it could, however student motivation to complete the drill and practice tasks doesn’t appear to be as high when compared to using an iPad. As educators, we all know that motivation is what activates behaviour and when students are motivated their cognitive performance is enhanced.

This year I have been using drill and practice apps such as Math Splat (cost approx $1.00) and Wipe Out Wall Addition and Subtraction/ Wipe out Wall Multiplication and Division (cost approx $1.00) with several students. When the students arrive at school, they collect one of my iPads from my desk and work in pairs to complete the tasks. Working in pairs allows students to support each other if needed and to monitor each others progress. If a student is simply guessing and randomly touching numbers until they get the correct answer, their partner is more than happy to report the activity to the teacher. I also ask the students to create a screen capture of their results at the end of each drill and practice activity. This can be done by holding down the home key and pressing the on/off button simultaneously. An image of what is being displayed on the iPad will automatically be sent to your Pictures file. This enables me to monitor and track student’s use of the iPad.

I also use drill and practice as a whole class activity. I can’t use iPads for whole class activities because I only have two of my own. However, I use a free online resource called Study Ladder Rapid Recall. This free online resource enables teachers to generate math mental sheets at various levels, catering for individual needs. I really like this resource because the answers and printed at the bottom of the page. Students fold the answers so they can’t be viewed and at completion of the task they unfold the paper and mark their own questions, giving students immediate (or close to) feedback.

To create a ‘game like’ atmosphere, once students have folded their answers, they all stand behind their chair with their back to their worksheet. I display a large timer on my interactive whiteboard and say, ‘Turn around, sit down” and then I start the timer. Students complete their task, record the time taken and then check their answers. I walk around the room while students are completing the task and monitor progress and the correct recording of time taken to complete the task. Below is a short video an exceptional year 3 student completing a rapid recall task. Please note, this isn’t the average task, I set approximately 9 different rapid recall tasks for a class of 29 in order to cater for individual needs.

Aside: Math Splat is available free online for interactive whiteboard users, it doesn’t generate number problems but you can use it as an interactive 100 square (students love it). For Splat Square 0-99 here is the link or Splat Square 1-100 here is the link.

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