• by Blaine Helwig

Student Math Skill Mastery - Spaced Repetition System

Teaching preparation revolves around daily lesson plans – a structured approach to ensure the teacher is ready for the daily core lesson as well as ensuring sequential scope of the curriculum. In effect, establishing a basic static structure to the classroom instructional routine for core daily lessons. Consider adding a spaced repetition methodology at the beginning of the daily core math lesson.

Implement a quick, concurrent and dynamic spaced repetition math system

There is a sure fire way to increase your students’ math skill efficacy in as little as 5 to 10 minutes each day. Prior to the beginning of the core classroom lesson, the teacher presents a quick review of three to five previously presented math skills from earlier core lessons.

For example, let us presume a fifth grade teacher has previously taught the following math skills in prior core math lessons: even and odd numbers, missing addends/subtrahends, expanded place value form, both computational operations of addition and subtraction – across zeroes and prime and composite numbers.

Each day, a group of two or three of these ad hoc math skills are presented in a quick mini-lesson, until students demonstrate skill mastery. The math skill list is constantly updated as new skills from recent core lessons are added and math skills that have been sufficiently reviewed and student mastered are removed from the list.

There are many advantages that affect the math efficacy for students when using this rotational math skill mini-lesson pedagogical technique. They include:

  • Skill Repetition Threshold Met. The activity focuses student attention as well as efficiently offering skill repetitions guaranteeing mastery and systematically building an arithmetic foundation. Importantly, as students academically 'catch-up,' instructional differentiation is reduced since more students are on grade level - albeit, skill levels.

  • Skill Mastery Heightening Student Confidence. Students’ self-esteem and confidence is heightened as they ‘own’ the repeated material in a rapid manner prohibiting a boredom factor to set-in.

  • Skill Accountability with Flexibility. All students are accountable for prior core math content with built-in verification of mastery and flexibility to include new skills from recent core lessons or diagnostic assessments.

  • Lessening Student Management Issues. Student disruptions are lessened as they systematically build a solid math foundation and possess sufficient math skills to appropriately engage in core lessons and problem solving sessions.

  • Proactive Skill Development. Future skills can be inserted in the skill rotation that will be needed in future core lessons. For example, students practice computing the ‘least common denominator, LCD’ and are prepared when adding or subtracting proper fractions with unlike denominators.

These advantages illustrate the pedagogical effectiveness of using a quick rotational review each morning. Teachers should vary the rotational math skill (spaced repetition) mini-lesson format to ensure the activity remains fun and interesting throughout the school year.

Teacher planning time is minimized if a hierarchical list of math skills is readily referenced in the lesson plan book or the corner of the black/white board. Teachers should mentally note specific students who struggle on a math skill type and provide intervention at a convenient time in the day. Importantly, student prowess in solving word problems increases since those problems are comprised of a series of specific mastered math skills.

Teachers will be amazed at the results of this simple morning strategy with their students. As a matter of fact, standardized test performance has risen as much as 30 to 40 percent in one school year after the implementation of a structured daily numeracy program and a rotational spaced repetition system.