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Timed Math Tests…Yes or No?

Posted By: Best Brains Jan-21, 2019


Photo Credit: Ansgar Koreng from Flickr

Math facts such as addition and multiplication have been timed in many classrooms in the U.S. for decades. However, their use has become a hotly debated topic in recent years. Many would argue that such tests are a great way to strengthen a child’s math skills. Yet others stand firm that they are only causing more harm than good. So, who is correct? Should math facts be timed? To answer this, we must first look closely at both sides of the argument.

Pro Time

  • Studies have proven that the more practice any person gets on a certain topic, the stronger and better their neuronal connections are and the faster their neurons are able to fire. This means that more practice equals better results. A timed math test is a way for students to practice these math facts and to continuously try to better those skills.
  • There are those students who really like timed tests. These are a fun way to compete with the clock, turning what could be a boring quiz or test into a game of sorts.

Against Time

  • However, not all children enjoy being timed. For some, it causes stress and anxiety. This often results in very low scores even if they know the material very well. The fact is that not all students learn well at a fast pace.
  • Timed tests teach kids to be afraid of making mistakes. Instead of focusing on how to learn from their mistakes and find another way to solve it, they are taught that they only have one chance and mistakes are not tolerated. Rather than making new connections and learning new solutions, they eventually give up in timed situations.
  • They also give the perception that to be good at math, you have to be fast. This is entirely false. However, if students continuously see that high scores only go to the students who finish first it is hard to dismiss the idea. The fact is there are many great mathematicians who are not the fastest thinkers. But that doesn’t mean they are not incredibly smart or capable.

To Time or Not to Time

Test Clock

Photo Credit: Geralt from Pixabay

Based on the facts, we believe a compromise can be made. Good teachers have found that using timed tests do offer good practice for all students. However, they shouldn’t be graded, at least not by the teacher. Timed tests are the perfect activity for a Friday afternoon when there is a little free time.

They provide an excellent opportunity for students to try to beat their own time and work on their skills, without being compared to the rest of the class. And it turns something that could be stressful for slower thinking students into a fun challenge. After all, grading should reflect the child’s comprehension of the material, not their speed.