HOW TO MAKE THE FLASHMASTER WORK BEST
FOR YOUR STUDENT AND YOU
The following suggestions are intended to make your student's learning experience and your supervisory experience fast, easy and productive.
Although the FlashMaster has many powerful features, most of them are obvious and easy to use. Normally,
even young first-time users should be challenged—as in the case of a fun puzzle—to spend at least their first 15 minutes (more or less by themselves) trying to figure out as much as possible about the FlashMaster
and each of its keys by playing with it while looking for "clues" in its display and in the labels on its top.
Teachers should practice
10 to 15 minutes a day using the "Flashcards" learning activity
until they can often
score 90% using the 1.6-second per-problem time limit
(or a shorter one) at Level 7 in addition and multiplication. Until they
can, they may doubt the fact that most students can do the same.
Use your common sense in using the FlashMaster and in deciding whether and to what extent to follow these suggestions. Only you know your student's particular circumstances and are in a position to observe and listen to him or her using the FlashMaster.
4. Experiment with the FlashMaster using different settings until you have a sense for how your student will feel using it.
The FlashMaster is not designed to explain the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Depending on the student, a lot or a little time may need to be spent introducing these concepts.
Students should normally record at least some of their results from each daily FlashMaster session—perhaps the 3 results they are most proud of. Most students can be taught to do this easily and quickly on a
form like one of the two printable from this website. (One of the two alternative forms is designed for younger students who need more room to write.) Students tend to try harder when they know that at least some of their results will be recorded. Recording results also helps them appreciate the progress they are making over time. Most importantly, recording results in this manner makes it much easier for teachers or parents to monitor a student's efforts and progress and to recognize when the settings used by a student need to be adjusted because they are either too challenging or not challenging enough. (In the classroom, students can occasionally exchange FlashMasters and result forms to encourage accuracy. Teachers and parents should occasionally spot-check recordkeeping for accuracy.)
should also be used for recording assignments.
Often, teachers need tell their class only the identity and order of the day's learning activities. Students can then copy their individual settings for Levels, Time Limits, arithmetic operation, etc. from where those settings have been most recently recorded on their forms. Using result forms for assignments minimizes
time needed for FlashMaster sessions thereby making more frequent sessions practical.
When in doubt, make your student's first experiences with the FlashMaster too easy, too brief and too relaxed:
Give your student plenty of time to get used to the FlashMaster—perhaps some time
"playing" with it in your absence.
Err on the side of having the student start by using: (1) a Level that is too easy; (2) a per-activity Time Limit that is too short; and (3) (if ready for the "Flashcards" activity) a per-problem Time Limit that is too long.
Decide which arithmetic operation your student should focus on first. Perhaps, starting with addition will make sense. On the other hand, if your student is currently working on multiplication in school, you might want to start with it and focus on completely mastering addition (for example) only when your student is doing well in multiplication. In general, concentrate on one operation at a time.
TO DECIDE WHICH LEARNING ACTIVITIES A STUDENT SHOULD USE AND IN WHICH ORDER, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
"Table: In Order" and "Table: No Order" activities and the timed "Practice" and
"Special Problems" activities are primarily "instructional" in nature in that these four activities focus primarily on helping the student learn the answers to math fact problems.
By contrast, the
timed "Test" and "Flashcards" activities focus less on instruction and
more on developing speed,
maximizing the number of problems answered in a
given period of time, and assessment or testing. For this reason, unlike the
"Table", "Practice" and "Special Problems" activities, when a student answers a problem
incorrectly, the "Test" and "Flashcards" activities do not spend time re-presenting the problem or prompting the student with the correct answer to a problem that has
been missed twice in a row.
Even more important, the
"Test" and "Flashcards" activities
display answered problems for a much shorter time than do the other four
primarily-instructional activities and therefore
present the next problem much more rapidly.
The "Table: In Order" activity is primarily for introducing a new arithmetic
"table". The "Table: No Order" activity is the next step for practicing
a particular "table". Often the "Table" activities will be—or soon become—insufficiently challenging, especially the
"Table: In Order" activity. They normally should be used only with beginning students or in remedial situations.
Once a student is answering numerous problems in the "Practice" activity with a high rate of accuracy when the FlashMaster
is set for a certain Level and arithmetic operation, the student should
be directed to work with that Level and operation primarily, if not
solely, in the "Test" and "Flashcards" activities for at least two
reasons. First, the student will end up doing significantly more
problems than in the "Practice" activity. Second, the
more rapid presentation
of problems in these two activities will tend to keep the student more
display of answered problems in the "Practice" activity is helpful to
students in learning answers but can bore them and make them susceptible
to distraction once they pretty much know the answers.)
Once a student has attained a certain level of proficiency with a
certain Level in a particular arithmetic operation,
the "Flashcards" activity tends to be even more
engaging and exciting than the "Test" activity since the "Flashcards"
activity's per-problem Time Limit does not tolerate "dawdling" between
whereas there is nothing inherent
in the "Test" activity that motivates a student to answer problems
quickly. In addition, the "Flashcards" activity is better at developing
speed in the answering of difficult problems since its per-problem Time
Limit does not allow a student to "make time" for difficult problems by
answering easy problems quickly.
Despite these advantages of the "Flashcards" activity, the "Test" activity may be useful to add variety to a daily FlashMaster session.
the "Test" activity most closely simulates paper speed tests that many schools give their students both for practice and for testing. Note that if
the "Test" activity is used for testing and students turn off their FlashMasters' sound effects, then, as in the case of a paper test, students are not informed
of their mistakes until the end of the test when their results are automatically displayed since, in the
"Test" activity, the FlashMaster's display gives no
visual indication as to whether or not a just-entered answer is correct.
Although the "Test"
activity most closely simulates paper speed tests, the "Flashcards"
activity is even better at testing.
because the per-problem Time Limit does not allow a student to make time
for difficult problems by answering easy problems quickly. In order to
do well in the "Flashcards" activity, the student needs to be able to
answer each problem in time.
Before using the "Flashcards" or the"Test" activity for a test, students should activate their FlashMasters'
Missed and "Entered" Problems" key. Then, after the test, the students should do
at least one "Special Problems" activity
since this will allow the students to:
(1) see which problems they answered incorrectly in the test; (2) simultaneously practice just those problems in random order; and (3) be prompted with the correct
answers to problems that they continue to answer incorrectly (at least twice in a row). Used in this fashion, the FlashMaster does everything that a paper test
accomplishes, but (1) it does not waste paper, (2) it corrects the test automatically, and (3) in addition to identifying problems answered incorrectly, it allows
each student to practice just those problems in random order and even prompts the student with the correct answer to a problem when the student continues to have
difficulty with it.
Although it may be appropriate for a student to use the
"Flashcards" and perhaps also the "Test" activity to work on developing speed in one Level, in the same daily assignment it may also be appropriate
for the student to be using the "Practice" activity to learn the answers to problems in a more difficult Level. Thus, for example, in the same day's assignment a student
might use the "Practice" activity to learn answers to multiplication problems in Level 5 and the "Flashcards" and/or
"Test" activity to develop speed in Level 4 of multiplication.
The "Special Problems" activity should almost always be used at the end of a session to review problems
"missed" in other
activities during the session. This is not to say, however, that the
"Special Problems" activity should not sometimes also be used for review earlier in a daily assignment. In fact, if each student has the student's own FlashMaster, the first exercise of a daily assignment should often be the
"Special Problems" activity to review problems answered incorrectly during the previous day's assignment.
The "Flashcards" activity's default number of 30
problems will be excessive in some situations. For example,
the setting should normally be changed to 20 problems for second
In the case of the
"Practice", "Test" or "Special Problems" activity, often one exercise with a very long per
activity Time Limit is less effective than two exercises with significantly shorter per-activity Time Limits. For instance, in the case of fifth graders, two 75 second
activities might well be more effective than a single activity of even 180 seconds.
It's essential for teachers, themselves, to use the FlashMaster 10 to 15 minutes per day until they can
score 90% much of the time in addition and multiplication when the FlashMaster is set for
"Flashcards", the 1.6-second Time Limit, and Level 7 (which includes all the
essential problems in each of these operations but is designed so that the more difficult a problem is, the more often it is presented).
When teachers accomplish this,
they will realize that most of their students can eventually do the same. In fact, some third graders master the 1.0-second Time Limit (touch typing with 8 fingers).
On the other hand, on occasion fifth-grade teachers who presumably have not realized their own capabilities have not encouraged their students to try to master anything
shorter than the 3 second Time Limit.
Multiplication Tables, Division Tables, Addition Tables, and Subtraction Tables
The FlashMaster is the key to