Why You Should Use Math Skill Drills This Year

Why you should use math skill drills this year

your students need strong math skills

My philosophy of education is all about balance.  I love giving students the opportunity to discover math and understand the big ideas, but I also believe that having strong math skills instills confidence in students and leads to greater success in higher-level math.  Students need to be fluent in math facts, fraction operations, integers and more in order to have the confidence and foundation for Algebra 1 and beyond.

If your students don’t know their math facts, how are they going to fluently use the Distributive Property?

If your students don’t know how to find the least common denominator, how are they going to solve equations involving rational numbers?

Shouldn’t they be fluent in calculating discount and tax for its real world applications?

Many of these basic skills are used every day in real life.  Let’s help give our students the gift of strong number sense.

Shana of Scaffolded Math and Science shares her perspective as a high school special education math teacher: “Kids in high school who don’t know their multiplication facts can’t factor quadratics. This leads them to thinking they “can’t do algebra”. This then creates a giant brick wall for (us) to need to break down. The kids who didn’t learn the old fashioned long division algorithm will be less comfortable with polynomial long division in algebra 2.”

your students will benefit from free to discover skill drills

Math Skill Drills can be used as weekly homework assignments, intervention block practice, practice for early finishers, daily warm-ups, task cards, substitute plans, and more!  However you assign these tasks, your students are going to benefit!  Math Skill Drills include 20 review topics from previous math classes.  Each corresponding box contains a problem of the same topic; making it easy to measure growth and identify challenges. 

consistently reinforce number sense skills with math skill drills

Students track their own progress by recording their incorrect answers on Student Skill Logs.  It is easy to visually identify strengths and challenges in these charts.  This visualization can help students determine what questions they have during extra help, as well as strengths they have that they could use to help other students be successful. 

students measure and monitor their own growth with student skill logs

Teacher’s track class progress by tallying incorrect answers and can then provide remedial instruction based on data.  What a wonderful way to monitor progress over the course of the year as you watch the number of incorrect tallies decrease!

teachers can collect class data with the teachers logs

your students will appreciate the difference differentiation makes

I want ALL students to feel successful when completing Free to Discover Math Skill Drills.  Here are a few ideas for implementing differentiation strategies:

1)   Give students the opportunity to turn in the assignment to be checked before grading it.  This strategy rewards hard work and completion of the assignment ahead of schedule.  It’s very easy to make little mistakes on these assignments. (I caught a few mistakes of my own while I was double-checking my answer keys!)  I allow my students to turn it in 2 days before the due date, I circle incorrect answers, and then I return the assignment to the student to be corrected before turning it in for final grading.  You might differentiate by requiring this procedure for students who have a challenging time with these assignments.
7th grade math skill drill

2)   For every three perfect scores received, students can earn a Skill Drill Pass.  This pass can be turned in instead of a Skill Drill with no penalty.  Students who are consistently scoring 100% can earn an occasional lighter week.  Or if you’re feeling really motivated, you could substitute in an alternate assignment every 4th assignment for students who consistently score perfectly on Math Skill Drills.

3)   Allow students to complete corrections for some credit.  I want my students to master these skills.  For some students, it may take a little longer than others.  Consider allowing students who seek remedial instruction to earn back half the lost points.  I do feel like students should have to earn this opportunity through extra help or extra practice.

4)   Free to Discover Math Skill Drills are available in multiple levels.  Purchase the whole bundle so that students can each complete an assignment that fits their needs.  Mix and match the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels!   Some of the topics overlap but all of the practice problems are unique.

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20+ Ideas for Teaching with Math Task Cards

20+ ideas for teaching with math task cards

Task cards are everywhere you look because teachers are falling in love with this method of practice! Check out this post for information about WHY to use task cards, HOW to use task cards, and RESOURCES for task cards.

Task cards are less overwhelming than worksheets because students focus on one problem at a time.  This is helpful for all students, but especially those with attention difficulties.  With worksheets, sometimes I find students having a hard time getting started because the task seems so daunting, but with task cards it is much easier to focus on completing ONE problem… then another, then another.

Task cards can allow for movement as students change stations or walk to retrieve another card.  Movement is so important to incorporate into classes whenever possible.  Think about how much time your students spend sitting throughout the day.  They need opportunities to stand up and move to a different spot in order to wake up the brain!

20+ ideas for teaching with math task cards

Task cards can provide a variety of practice on one topic or several review topics.  They are so versatile!  Sometimes I use sets of task cards with a huge variety of topics to review for state or final exams.  Other times I focus on one topic for more repetition as students are learning a new skill.  The possibilities are endless!

Task cards can be reused again and again because students write in workspaces or a separate piece of paper.  Print on cardstock and laminate so they can stand the test of time and be used again.  You can purchase index card organizers to store them if you have the space.  Little to no prep after year one!

Students enjoy using task cards and show greater engagement than when completing a regular worksheet.  Perhaps the best reason of all… kids love them!  It’s literally a worksheet separated out onto small cards, but many students feel like it is a game.  My middle schoolers love task card days.  J

My favorite way to use task cards is to leave them in a bin at the front of the room.  Each student begins with one.  They complete the problem in their workspace, then return to the bin to compare their answer with the answer key.  If they are correct, they trade for a new card.  If they are incorrect, they return to their seat to determine their mistake.

Set up 5 or 6 stations around the room with a handful of cards at each.  I project a timer on the front whiteboard and have all students move to the next station at the same time.  Here’s my typical station schedule:
2 minutes: Focus silently and get started.
2 minutes: Collaborate with peers in your group.
1 minute: Check answers and wrap up.
I give my students verbal instructions when it’s time to collaborate and check answers.  During this time I walk around, help students get started if needed, answer questions, etc.

Place each card at a different location around the room and have students move around to complete them all.  They could be taped to walls with students using clipboards or set on desks so students can sit.  Switch it up and see what your students respond better to!

20+ ideas for teaching with math task cards

Give each student a different card to complete as a Problem of the Day or Exit Ticket.  Have students trade with others so they complete 3-5 problems.  This version is for quick checks that only need 5 minutes or so.  Students stay in their seats but get some quick practice.

Project some cards on the front board to discuss as a whole class.  This strategy could make a good opener before sending students off to practice on their own.  This method is also great for reteaching a concept or having students record some examples into a notebook.

Print out and use them as worksheets or a packet.  Of course there’s the traditional practice packet that works well, too!  In this case, students could write directly on the pages as there should be plenty of space to write.


Learning Made Radical: Ideas on Using Task Cards

Looking for some ready-made resources?  I have FREE set of task cards for reviewing functions on my blog.  My full collection of task cards can be found here.

Smith Curriculum and Consulting put a new spin on using task cards in the classroom with her product: Left, Right, Answer!  Learn more here.

Scaffolded Math & Science offers a free set of Domain and Range Intervention Task Cards.  Scoop them up here.

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