The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 12, 2008

New software helps young students improve math skills

Carlisle first graders are getting high tech help in learning their math facts by using the math software FASTT Math. They began using the program last year and results look promising, reported the first grade team to the Carlisle School Committee (CSC).

The team gave a demonstration of the software to the CSC on December 3. The school received the software from Scholastic through the assistance of former CSC chair David Dockterman.

The first grades begin using FASTT Math in January. The software presents a number of math facts to practice, and focuses on facts students show they need to practice. The first time a student uses the program, he or she runs through a series of typing exercises that teaches the computer to recognize the student’s individual work speed. Each student has three 15-minute sessions per week. Students are then timed as they work but the software can be adjusted to account for different response times. The goal is to increase both accuracy and response time. The software is also used by second and third graders.

“We do not begin FASTT Math in first grade in any year until January,” explained first grade teacher Shawna Horgan in an email. “FASTT Math is not a teaching tool, but rather a tool to allow for practice in order to build proficiency and ‘automaticity’ of basic facts.” She explained that the first half of the school year is focused on developing “a secure number sense as well as an understanding of the concept of addition” using the regular teaching methods of Everyday Math.

Each June, students have been assessed on addition math facts by completing 70 problems in five minutes (see chart). “Last year it was striking to several of us that it was the first time they all completed the page [of 70 math problems] and they didn’t need the five minutes,” Horgan said.

According to the second grade team, last year’s first graders appear to have retained their knowledge of math facts, Horgan said. “The teachers report all the students are further along than they were in past years.” The teachers explained the students look forward to using FASTT Math and find the program stimulating. The program allows the teachers to track the students’ progress by reviewing the levels at which the students are achieving. They also can print out individualized math sheets for homework. The team explained the program measures accuracy but not speed.

Superintendent Marie Doyle noted that the first grade classes share a portable computer lab with the kindergarten classes, which can lead to scheduling conflicts. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito