Friday, November 27, 2015

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream For Ice Cream!

Encouraging an entire class of students to truly master all of their multiplication facts, is one of the hardest parts of my job. It is kind of like house-breaking a puppy. You can explain it until you are blue in the face, you can offer incentives, you can offer consequences for failures, and you can look up endless advice on the internet and in books from experts who promise their way is foolproof. Sometimes none of this makes any difference. Just like I have a five year old dog who still occasionally has accidents, almost every year I have a student or two who can not master all of their facts.

 When my son was in 3rd grade, his teacher created an ice cream party incentive program. He vividly remembers this because he did not earn cherries, but snuck one anyway. A little girl in his class ratted him out to the teacher. Why is it we always remember the embarrassing moments more vividly than the triumphant ones? Last year, I crafted my own system for ice cream multiplication.  Although I won't promise that it was foolproof, it definitely helped.

After Christmas, we will launch our Ice Cream Multiplication Incentive.  For each multiplication quiz 0-12 the students pass, they earn a part of their ice cream sundae. Mastering all of their zero facts earns ice cream, mastering all of their ones facts earns a bowl, and so on until they earn the cherry on top after mastering all twelve facts. My Ice Cream Multiplication Celebration is available on TeachersPayTeachers. I have a color version for sale, too. Although I'm not sure who has the budget to run that many copies in color! Of course you could also visit the wonderfully free site, Math-Drills to print your own timed multiplication tests, come up with your own schedule and write your own parent letter if you, like me, have blown through most of your classroom budget already.

I have a few other tricks for helping students learn their facts that might help. If we are learning twos facts, I make the children count off by twos each time we line up.  Of course, this is super easy for third graders. Not so much when you start learning sevens facts. I make nametags for each child and myself with the more difficult facts we are studying each week.  For instance my nametag may say 7 x 8.  For that week, I will only answer to Mrs. 56. The students love this. The best part is catching me forgetting to call someone by their fact answer name.

How do you encourage students to master their multiplication facts? I would love to hear your tried and true techniques!