Math Madness

Can you successfully complete 30 math facts in one minute?

If you can’t–if you can only successfully complete 20 or 22 (because damn it if you can’t automatically recall that 8 + 5 = 13), would you be worried?

If the answer is “yes,” then I would advise you to grab a nice glass of wine or maybe a cold brew, cop a squat and just freaking RELAX, already.

You’re not stupid.

Unfortunately, this is not the message my eight year-old daughter receives when she is sent home (the day before a vacation week, mind you) with a sheet consisting of thirty math computation problems attached to a note that reads, “This week your child was unable to complete this fact sheet in one minute or less. It would be most helpful if you reinforce practice on these facts.”

It’s awfully polite; I’ll give them that.

I mean, look. I get that if she had only been able to successfully complete 5 or 6 math facts in one minute, I should be slightly concerned. True, at any given time most folks have something electronic on hand that would make such computations in less than ten seconds–but having some automaticity with one’s math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) is clearly more desirable due to its efficiency.

Is it really necessary, though, that one MUST be able to successfully complete 30 math facts in one minute in order to be spared the monotony of doing these twice a week as well as being assigned to practice them over a vacation week?


Where is the logical thinking in this?

It’s absent, of course, which is just one example of how public education–even within exceptional schools like the one my daughter attends– continues to value policy and procedure over thinking. How we, as teachers, must remind ourselves to be diligent in holding ourselves accountable to students who don’t all fit into the same mold–and ensuring that the instructional decisions we make reflect that very basic, and very important, premise.

Or do you disagree with this? I can tell you that there are many within my own district that do.

I’ll give you a minute to think about it.

1 thought on “Math Madness”

  1. Last night Audrey burst into tears because Joseph was giving her a timed test and she had 4 questions left at the end. The teacher told the students that anyone who had more than 3 questions left would have to stay in for recess. I did not realize Joseph was timing her and at one point from the living room, I called out a couple questions to Audrey about the dance. So I told her to go ahead and answer one more question because I had broken her train of thought for at least a couple seconds. She felt torn between “cheating” and not meeting the requirement. So, I personally think timed tests are stupid. I understand that it is helpful to memorize times tables and we had to memorize them as kids…. But if I remember correctly, we used flash cards and played games instead.


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