This is a Plain Gain Educational Site. No color, no pictures, no bells, no whistles. Just everything you need to implement one great educational activity that can help students to make gains to meet the Common Core Standards.
When you really think about, all elementary math can be boiled down to counting. Sure, there are some complex shortcuts for keeping track of numbers, but, it is all keeping track of numbers. Math Sprints help students see patterns in numbers. They especially give students a good sense of numbers and place value. This will help them to invent their own way to solve arithmetic problems later on when the teacher isn't around.
Aren't these just timed tests? NO! The tradition timed test focuses on memorization, not understanding. Math Sprints force students to really think about numbers, while also helping them to learn their facts.
American Thoughts on Singapore Math
When you hear about math sprints, you may also hear "Singapore Math." Although "Singapore Math" might sound new, good math teachers have been using its components for years. There are a lot of companies out there saying that they are "Singapore Math!" The major problem with throwing "Singapore Math" at American students is that in Singapore the entire culture embraces and backs the ideas behind it. In America, this is often, not the case. One example, parents honor and esteem teachers in Singapore. It is about more than a program in Singapore. It is about more than worksheets in Singapore. That being said, there are a lot of ideas from the Singapore approach that can instantly be put into practice in any math classroom in the United States. Here are those three ideas:
1. Slow down and actually learn the material before moving on.
Duh? This seems like a nobrainer, but, in the past, American textbooks (which many teachers are forced to teach to because of administrators decisions, not sound educational practice) have focused on approximately 130 separate lessons in a school year. The Singapore approach is to focus on about 30 lessons in a year. When student really understand the foundational ideas in math, they understand it and can solve more complex problems. Teaching for mastery. Whoa! No one in American has every thought of that!
2. Understand Mental Math
Most math can and should be done in students heads. This takes a lot of practice, but once students learn mental math strategies they can calculate quickly and easily allowing them to spend more time on solving actual math problems. Math Sprints are just one simple way that students can improve their mental math skills. Don't just give students a page of problems. Give students a page of problems around one focus strategy. I hope to provide these free at this site.
One example of why this approach is better for students can be seen in a mental math strategy that many adults have developed on their own but were never explicitly taught. Here is...
What is $1.99 plus $1.99.
Many American students will have to solve this problem by writing the numbers down in columns like this...
1
1.99
+1.99
8
1 1
1.99
+1.99
3. 98
What's the big deal? The student got the right answer? Wrong. This shows a clear lack of understand of the value of the numbers. It also takes longer and has more chances where students can make mistakes. At the beginning of the year, this calculation can take a student 4th grade who has never done mental math 13 minutes. Now the Singapore math student ,and many american adults, would simply do this...
Add a penny to 1.99 to get 2
Add a penny to 1.99 to get 2
add 2+2=4
then subtract $.02
If you would have done it the second way, congrats you are using Singapore math. Now imagine having a mental math strategy for almost any calculation that is throw at you. These math sprints will help your students learn these strategies. Don't worry! As a teacher, you don't need to know them in advance or master them. The best approach is to learn them right along with your students. You'll quickly see students being able to do problems much faster than you. The American style of calculating is much slower. You'll quickly pick up the strategies. You may even decide to get in the race with your students. The kids love this, especially when they win!
