Making the Best of Timed Math Fact Tests

Who here gives timed math fact tests?

I remember doing them when I was in school. I was pretty good at them, but my anxiety and nervousness was through. the. ROOF. every single Friday afternoon.

Knowing that timed tests are so stressful for our students, why do we continue to do them? Well, some of us are required to... However, when you look at the CCSS for second grade, students are supposed to "know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers" by the end of second grade. And the wording is the same for third grade and multiplication facts.

We know that automaticity of math facts is crucial for when students move on to higher level math. My students practice their math facts every day in a variety of ways, including math games and using the Xtra Math website, but when it comes time to assess, the only option I can think of to assess automaticity is using a timed situation, which seems so old school. GROAN...

So how can I make these painful assessments less painful?

Are you required to give timed math fact tests? Check out this one simple change you can make during this routine that can help ease the anxiety and high pressure of timed math fact tests.

What is considered "knowing" math facts?

Research says that students should be able to automatically recall math facts orally in 2-3 seconds per fact. Students should be able to write facts at 2/3 the speed of their oral ability, so that means on a written timed test, it should take students about 3-4 seconds per fact to complete.

How I try to lessen student anxiety during timed math fact tests

Even though I hate giving timed tests, I have to, so here's what I do. Each student takes out a pencil and a marker from his/her desk.  They write their names on their papers and then flip them upside-down until the time is ready to start.
Are you required to give timed math fact tests? Check out this one simple change you can make during this routine that can help ease the anxiety and high pressure of timed math fact tests.
I count down to the start of the time, and then students busily get to work with their pencils. If they finish before the timer goes off, they go back and check their answers. When the timer goes off, I yell, "switch!" Students put down their pencils and pick up their markers to finish the test. It's after the timer goes off that they're allowed to get up and turn in their papers. While I encourage the speedy completion of their papers, students then can take as much time as they need to finish their tests with their marker.

For my students with IEPs and/or anxiety, tests that must be completed in a certain amount of time are not their friends. I should add that many of these children often have extended time written into their IEPs or 504s, but even that is stressful for them. This simple change attempts to lessen the emphasis on time and places additional importance on actually completing the test. My students know that the four seconds per fact expectation so they have that goal in mind, but time is not the only thing I value. 
Are you required to give timed math fact tests? Check out this one simple change you can make during this routine that can help ease the anxiety and high pressure of timed math fact tests.
When I grade the timed tests, I only record the problems written in pencil. Students should be able to recall and write 15 math facts in one minute (15 x 4 seconds = 60 seconds), and 80% or better is considered meeting expectations, so I am looking for at least 12 facts correct in that time limit. 

I still hate giving timed tests. But making this small, yet powerful change has eased the stress and anxiety in many of my students. Have you tried this tip? Let me know how it went in the comments!


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Are you required to give timed math fact tests? Check out this one simple change you can make during this routine that can help ease the anxiety and high pressure of timed math fact tests.

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