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If At First You Don’t Succeed…Try, Try Again. And Then Again!

The Power of Repeated Practice in Math 

Today I want to discuss the power of repeated practice for young mathematicians. We always say that to become a stronger reader, we need to practice reading. Somehow we often forget to apply this principle to math.

Many math curricula today have taken on the idea of the “spiral.” I actually love the idea of a spiraling curriculum in theory.  In essence it means that material is presented more than once and that mastery should not necessarily be expected the first time it is taught. If your child does not catch subtraction with regrouping the first time around, don’t worry…it will be back again at another point either this year or next. As in all curricula, there is a downside to the spiral. The material moves quickly and is not practiced again for a long period of time. For students who haven’t mastered the topic, it can feel new again by the next time it is re-approached. What can we do to solve this problem?

Firstly, it is important to know the strengths and areas for growth in your students or children. If you suspect that your child is struggling with retention in math it may be related to the topics moving too quickly. To solve this problem, I propose the idea of repeated practice! Support your children by giving them extended repeated practice in one area of mathematics before moving to the next.

Classroom Teachers (At School)

If you are a classroom teacher reading this, you might be thinking: “The material does move too fast but I don’t know how or when to fit repeated practice into my classroom!” I highly recommend using centers to differentiate instruction. Don’t reinvent the wheel, there aren’t enough hours in your day for that. Find an online resource with worksheets that you like and print some out at different levels. Split your class into groupings that make sense and set your students up to work independently. Perhaps you have 8 students working on multiplication facts, 8 students working on multiplication word problems and you are working with 8 students to re-teach them how to use manipulatives to create accurate representations of multiplication. Yes, this can be taxing and it takes time…but don’t our kids deserve it? And don’t you deserve to feel like you are making progress and that your students are walking away truly understanding a lesson? See if you can find time to try out centers in your classroom, even if it’s just once for 20 minutes.

Families (At Home) 

Classroom teachers have the unbelievably stressful task of fitting everything into one year, so if extensive repetition cannot happen in the classroom, make sure to offer it at home. Just as I advised the classroom teachers, I will advise families at home: Don’t reinvent the wheel! People have been doing this for years and there are a ton of resources out there that allow you to print out worksheets that will reinforce math topics.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a couple resources I find helpful. If you have further questions, feel free to post them and receive a prompt response!

  • SuperTeacher Worksheets a great resource for free printables with answer keys
  • SoftSchools has an option to generate your own worksheets and download the PDF
  • TLS Books is particularly useful for charts and graphs
  • EdHelper is a great resource (not only for math), but you need to pay to be a member

*Special Note

I am not an avid fan of worksheets because they often result in “busy work” in the classroom. In this case, I am recommending them as a supplemental resource rather than a replacement for curricular materials, manipulatives, etc. I am recommending them as a simple tool to reinforce what is already being taught by offering extensive repeated practice.

See samples from SuperTeacherWorksheets and TLS Books below

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