Education & Family

Flash cards prevail over repetition in memorizing multiplication tables

After the lesson, half the school rooms practiced by reciting equations displayed on a whiteboard:  “One times three is three, two times three is six…” by way of to 10. The different half practiced with flash cards. Students had their very own private sets with solutions on the reverse facet. Both teams spent 5 minutes practising 3 times throughout the week for a complete of 15 minutes. (More particulars on the experiment’s design here.)

When the academics moved on to multiplication by fours, the teams switched. The chanters quizzed themselves with flash cards, and the flash card youngsters started chanting. All the scholars practiced memorizing each methods. 

The outcomes added as much as a transparent winner. 

On a pre-test earlier than the lesson, the second graders acquired a mean of three math information proper. Afterwards, the chanters tended to double their accuracy, answering six information accurately. But the flash card customers averaged eight right. Students had been examined once more a full week later with none extra observe periods, and the robust benefit for flash card customers didn’t fade. It was an indication that flash card observe not solely produces higher short-term reminiscences, but in addition higher long-term ones – the final word objective.

Students scored larger on a multiplication check after practising by way of flash cards (retrieval observe) than by chanting aloud (restudy). (Source: Figure 1 of “The effect of retrieval practice on fluently retrieving multiplication facts in an authentic elementary school setting,” (2023) Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology.)

The research, “The effect of retrieval practice on fluently retrieving multiplication facts in an authentic elementary school setting,” was printed on-line in October 2023 in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. Though a small research of 48 college students, this classroom experiment is an effective instance of the facility of what cognitive scientists name “spaced retrieval practice,” in which the act of remembering consolidates info and helps the mind kind long-term reminiscences.

Retrieval observe can appear counterintuitive. One may assume that college students ought to research earlier than being assessed or quizzing themselves. But there’s a rising body of proof that attempting to recall one thing is itself a strong device for studying, notably if you find yourself given the right reply instantly after making a stab at it after which get an opportunity to strive once more. Testing your reminiscence – even if you draw a clean – is a approach to construct new reminiscences. 

Many experiments have proven that retrieval practice produces better long-term memories than learning. Flash cards are one approach to strive retrieval observe. Quizzes are another choice as a result of additionally they require college students to retrieve new info from reminiscence. Indeed, many academics go for velocity drills, asking college students to race by way of a web page of multiplication issues in a minute. 

Flash cards could be much less anxiousness scary, present college students quick suggestions with solutions on the reverse facet and permit college students to repeat the retrieval observe instantly, running by way of the deck greater than as soon as. Still, youngsters are youngsters and so they simply drift off job throughout impartial observe time. With a timed quiz, the instructor could be extra assured that everybody has benefited from a spherical of retrieval observe. I’d be curious to see flash cards and quizzes pitted in opposition to one another in a future classroom experiment. 

As charming as multiplication songs are – I’ve a gentle spot for School House Rock and my editor fondly remembers her Billy Leach multiplication records – they’re unlikely to be as efficient as flash cards as a result of they don’t contain retrieval observe, in accordance with Gino Camp, a professor of studying sciences at Open University in the Netherlands and one of many researchers on the research.

That doesn’t imply we should always jettison the songs or all the opposite memorization strategies simply because some aren’t as efficient as others. Researchers might finally discover {that a} mixture of methods is much more highly effective. Still, there are restricted minutes in the varsity day, and understanding which studying strategies are the best can assist everybody – academics, dad and mom and college students – use their time properly.

This story about multiplication flash cards was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, impartial information group targeted on inequality and innovation in schooling. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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