Who's On Second?

Blog for second grade teachers, but all are welcome!

What's More Important?

StarThere has been somewhat of a debate among a group of teachers that I know. Is it a good idea to give timed addition and subtraction facts tests to second graders? I did it for a while when my team first wanted to do it, but I found that some kids got too upset because they weren't able to work that fast and remained on the same level for a long time, and others zipped through it because it wasn't much of a challenge for them.  After two years, I decided not to give these timed tests anymore. Even though it was only for three minutes, I didn't think it was worth the time.

My feeling is that, while it is important to know math facts in order to be able to work faster, it's much more worthwhile to know how to solve problems involving math concepts.  Memorization does have its place, but it doesn't mean that kids are able to demonstrate what to do with the numbers. A case in point: four years ago I had a student whose parents kept telling me I wasn't challenging their son in math because he knew all of his multiplication tables.  They felt that this was an indication that he was ready for more difficult material.  The problem was that when given a word problem to solve, the boy had no idea where to begin. He could not apply his knowledge of the facts to solve real-world problems. 

I prefer to spend a part of my daily math class teaching the children problem-solving strategies, so I have two daily problems to solve: one is challenging and the other is on grade level.  I don't necessarily assign one to any particular child, but most know which one they are able to solve. Then we spend some time having the students demonstrate ways to solve the problem.

Does anyone have an opinion about the importance of memorizing facts as opposed to learning how to problem-solve?

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2007 8:50 PM by sellen

MysteryTeacher said:

We are required to do it starting in 1st grade.  I have always done it.  However, this year (when it became mandatory) I began to realize that some of my students knew their facts but couldn't get it down fast enough.  They are just hesitant learners and the more stress they have the slower they work.  In the end, I let them work at their own speed just to see that they knew them.  They did.

We time them to get them to quit counting on their fingers.  In my class, the ones who master the facts in the alloted time, get their time reduced by a minute at a time until they are down to 3 minutes.  They love the extra challenge.  There is a prize in the end if they can beat me.  I have only had one student in 20 years who has done that.

Timing kids has a place but it should not be mandatory to pass the grade level.

# August 3, 2007 10:17 PM
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