Why the Tree of Life?


Mad Minute

It's been a struggle finding the least painful method of helping the boys put their math facts on automatic pilot. The search always seems on, and we've tried all sorts of things over the past couple years: math songs, clapping, rhymes, MathRider, random free online games, worksheets, rote copying...  They all work well enough as long as I have willing students, but the honeymoon always wears off, and I either recycle a method we've already done or I'm on the hunt again for something new.

Recently, an acquaintance and I were comparing notes about being taught as kids with the A Beka curriculum at our respective parochial schools.  She reminded me of the math "speed drills" we used to do, and I remembered that I liked them.  These were just small sheets with about 20 math problems, and as a class, we would compete with the teacher to see who could beat him on the most right and the fastest finish.  Unfortunately, I found that A Beka doesn't sell the speed drills separately from the rest of their math curriculum (or at least not separately from their tests and quizzes), but I found something even better: The Mad Minute  It is actually out-of-print, but you can get a new copy from the amazon marketplace.


The Mad Minute is basically the same thing as speed drills with nearly 200 pages of 30 questions each going from the easiest addition problems all the way through fractions and decimals.  It is intended as a resource for grades 1-8.  I have been making a copy of each sheet, one for each boy, and then when my one-minute timer goes off, they race to see how many they can get done.  When they are finished, I check their problems and only score their correct ones until the first wrong one.  It doesn't matter if they get all the rest right.  If they got the first four right, missed one, and then get five more right, they would have a score of 4.  This sounds harsh on paper, but it encourages careful work as opposed to sloppy speed, and the boys went into this activity knowing that was the rule of the game.  After two weeks of doing this daily, they have each only missed one problem on one day, and there were not any tears, just a little personal disappointment.  And they are not racing against each other, but trying to best their own previous days' scores.  They both, so far, love it.  It's their favorite thing to do right now school-wise.  And it literally only takes one minute to do.  Nice to have another tool in the box.

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