Finding ways to engage students with math and to get them practicing their facts on their own challenges every math teacher. Beginning last school year, all Muscatine Community School District (MCSD) teachers in first through sixth grade got a new tool to help them overcome this challenge, the CountFast learning system. Using a series of math card games of increasing difficulty, students practice their math skills in school and at home to get faster at mental computation. After seeing positive results with the program, fifth and sixth grade teachers at Madison Elementary school decided to go a step further by creating a series of CountFast Tournaments.
According to Jillian Poppe, a fifth-grade teacher at Madison, students typically practice CountFast in class for ten to fifteen minutes daily. Students also have decks of CountFast cards at home and may practice there as well. Because Madison has a REACH parent honor roll program, which rewards families for making sure their students complete a certain amount of reading and math at home each night, many students use CountFast outside of school regularly.
In the first month and a half of school this year, Poppe has already seen positive results from the program. “I’ve definitely seen the number of students proficient on multiplication facts get much higher much faster,” she reported.
As students began using CountFast this year, Poppe’s pre-Advance Placement (AP) math class and Kristen Harold’s sixth-grade pre-AP math class started teaming up to practice together. Seeing that students enjoyed going head to head with each other, the two teachers organized CountFast Tournaments to coincide with the end of each CountFast unit. Poppe elaborated, “we thought it would be fun for them to have a competition. As they get older, the incentive to compete gives them extra motivation.”
Every two weeks, Harold and Poppe put on a single elimination bracket tournament for all fifty-nine students in their classes. The brackets pair a fifth and sixth grade student with each other and have them compete to see who can correctly complete the most CountFast cards in three minutes. In the final round, the last two students standing face off, with a teacher flipping the cards for fairness. In this fast paced and fun contest, Poppe says students love striving to come out on top and getting to work with friends from other classes. “Some of it’s bragging rights, but they also enjoy working with a partner from another grade. They partner very well together.”
MCSD students across the district will continue to work with the CountFast program for much of this school year. As they continue to utilize it, Madison will continue to hold its competitions and help its students master the skill of mental math.