Friday, March 9, 2012

Become a Math Whiz with Whiz Quiz

Ask any elementary teacher what the number one thing students need help with in math and you will hear a resounding MATH FACTS. Knowing basic math facts is the most important skill students can have in math. It is also the one thing that can major inhibit a child's ability to score well in any math situation be it homework, a class assignment, weekly tests, or major state assessments.

Students begin working on math facts in kindergarten but they aren't expected to begin memorizing math facts in first grade. By fourth grade, students should have mastered all of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Basic facts are defined as 0-9, i.e 3+9= 18-9= 3x7=  24/6=.

Now there is much controversy over basic facts tests. Many teachers and administrators believe that students should not memorize facts by practice with flashcards and tests, but should constantly interact with numbers and fact families in order to best understand the putting together and pulling apart of numbers.

This is absolutely true! Students must understand why and how numbers equal certain things. Students will better understand mathematical concepts if they are able to understand what happens when numbers are put together or taken apart.

However there comes a time when children must memorize their basic facts. Otherwise they will spend time figure out answers to basic facts rather than solving more complicated problems. Not being able to quickly recall basic facts will, without a doubt, impede students when problem solving.

Therefore in my classroom I use the Whiz Quiz. Each day students have 1 minute of fact practice. This minute consist of a strip of paper with 20 problems related to one set of facts, i.e. 2's addition or 4's multiplication. If students mastered that set of facts, they move on to the next set of facts on the next day. If not then, they must practice that set of facts that night for homework. They can practice in whatever way you decide (but I prefer writing 5 times each).

Whiz Quiz is a fast and effective method of fact practice. It takes about 2 minutes to distribute (if you are organized), one minute and 5 seconds to administer, and a couple of minutes to grade. It is differentiated and allows students to move at their own pace through the basic math facts. For instance, I have many children who are almost finished with all of their division facts and I have some children who are still on addition.

I have a bulletin board set up with stars. Each one has a set of facts on it "2's", "3's", "4's"...Since my classroom has a sports theme, students each have a football player or cheerleader. Each time they pass a set of facts they move their person to the next number.

To make it easy to pass out my Whiz Quizzes, I have a file box which has all of the strips organized numerically starting with the addition facts and working back to division. I call out each fact and students come up when I call out the fact they are on. Ex: "2's multiplication....4's division".

Once they get their strip, they write their name on it and then turn it face down on their desk. When everyone has been "served", I tell them to Get Ready, Get Set (turn paper over) and Go! I give them 1 minute and 5 seconds. When time is up I say, "Everybody stop! Pencils drop!" They pass their tests down to me and I quickly grade them. I can do it quite fast, but I recommend making a key for yourself if you find it taking too long. To make it easy, I do not even grade ones that are missing more than 2. I just circle the ones they did not get to and have them write those for homework.

If you would like to use Whiz Quizzes for yourself, please check out Whiz Quiz at my TpT store.


  1. I do the same thing in my class, except I have always used EdHelper sheets. It takes forever, so I like your strips much better!! I am going to purchase them!

  2. I have found the blog of the famous "Liz"!! I teach at SS in Grady Co. I always hear about how awesome "Liz" was. I was told Whiz Quiz was what Liz used and it was great .. so I googled it and here is YOUR blog!! I just thought I would share that even though you no longer work there - you are still talked about (in a good way of course!)