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Pros: Good theory allows students to focus on memorization with minimal distractions.
Cons: Rote, timed drill-and-practice exercises aren't engaging and can be stressful.
Bottom Line: XtraMath helps kids gain crucial math-fact fluency but won't get them any closer to enjoying math.
Kids can use XtraMath for math practice at home, during the summer, and in school. It should be done regularly, but only once a day for about 15 minutes; overuse could reduce kids' motivation. It's easy for teachers to set up their student accounts. Students can log in via a username and password or with a Clever badge.
The goal is to get kids to respond to the math problem within three seconds. That way, they can do math facts without having to use their fingers or do mental calculations. Teachers may find XtraMath to be a helpful warm-up activity as an alternative to traditional "Mad Minute" drills. It could also be one of several stations so that kids can practice fluency while also building understanding in more engaging ways. Because timed drills can be stressful for students with processing challenges, let them practice on paper, at their own pace, first. Then use XtraMath to help them ramp up fluency. Also, it's important for kids to gain number sense before doing drills, so using manipulatives to let kids "see" the numbers will give them a foundation before rote memorization.
XtraMath is a free web-based program focusing on math fluency. It's also available as an app at the Apple Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon, but there you'll pay a one-time cost of $4.99. XtraMath helps students practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Mr. C, who talks kids through the tasks, is a National Board-certified teacher from Seattle. Emphasis is on both accuracy and speed with limited time to complete problems.
Students answer straightforward math-fact problems on the computer screen. Immediate feedback pops up in the form of a smiley face, an X, or a green check mark. Based on that information, the next set of problems is set up to help kids focus on their own specific needs. Kids, parents, and teachers all can see detailed progress in the XtraMath reports.
With XtraMath, kids get immediate feedback about both speed an accuracy. As students do problems, they adapt to target the problems kids struggle with. Parents and teachers can track students' progress using fluency reports, and the site is available in a wide variety of languages. Teachers can also customize programs to differentiate for students; one student can be working on multiplication and division while another can work on addition. There's even an assessment-only program that allows students to skip the practice and simply show teachers what they know. When it comes to the basics of memorizing facts, XtraMath does what it says it will.
Unfortunately, the site isn't exciting or fun for kids. Other math-fact fluency sites such as IXL and Reflex have bright images and fun games -- things XtraMath lacks -- but these sites also come with a steep price tag, while XtraMath is free. Even the paid app is less expensive, but there are many similar free apps on the market. Though it's convenient and free, teachers should first explain the purpose, so kids have a framework for why drills can be helpful. It's also important to check in with kids about how using XtraMath feels for them: Timed drills are a sure way to reinforce some kids' negative feelings about math, which won't help their progress. Bottom line: XtraMath on the web is free and gets the job done, but it isn't much fun.