Drill programs are computer-based tools that allow students to practice and improve their math fact knowledge. Traditionally, teachers have used “mad minute” or other drill practice games or worksheets to practice these skills in the classroom, but current technologies allow students to practice on computers and other devices. In fact, this computer aided instruction may lead to greater improvements in student skills than traditional paper-and-pencil methods, as computer assisted instruction has been demonstrated to provide increased learning rates when compared to traditional methods (Gesbocker, 2011).
It should be noted that these products are better described as educational technologies than assistive technologies. Their purpose is to instruct students in math fact knowledge rather than to accommodate for any specific skill deficits. Students who have documented skill deficits in math facts may benefit from this instruction, but calculators should be considered when students are still struggling despite extensive instruction.
The available research literature suggests that students benefit from daily drill practice of math facts (Knowles, 2010). Knowles found when students were asked to do drill practice weekly they demonstrated no improvement over students who did not do any drill practice of their math facts; however, students who practiced every day performed much better. Another author found computer-based instruction in math facts may be more motivating for students than traditional paper-and-pencil methods (Ke, 2008). Ke also found, however, that students who were instructed using computers did not actually perform better than students who used traditional methods on follow-up tests. Therefore, students may prefer computer-based instruction, but their test scores may not reflect this preference. Other research has found that students perform better on math fact instruction when a reinforcer is included (Parkhurst et al., 2010). These authors did not look at whether computer use as a reinforcer was sufficient for students to show improvements. Overall, the research is relatively unclear as to whether computer-based or traditional methods are superior for math fact instruction, but what is clear is that students require sufficient (daily) practice to show improvements.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable. Despite the academic rigour of the described studies the research is still inconsistent when it comes to computer-based drill programs.
Can be differentiated to the individual’s needs or learning level
May be preferable to paper-and-pencil methods for students who have graphomotor challenges
May be more motivating for students to use computer-based programs (Ke, 2008)
These programs should be considered educational, rather than assistive, technologies and therefore focus mainly on skill instruction rather than overcoming a deficit
Programs offered on the computer do not show consistent superiority to paper-and-pencil methods
Daily practice with paper-and-pencil math drills leads to greater improvements than weekly drills, therefore it is likely that students will need regular exposure to computer-based drill programs in order to see improvements (Rumberger, 2013)
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Gesbocker, S. R. (2011). The effects of computer assisted instruction on the recall of basic math facts among middle school students. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois.
Ke, F. (2008). A case study of computer gaming for math: Engaged learning from gameplay?. Computers & Education, 51, 1609–1620.
Knowles, N. P. (2010). The relationship between timed drill practice and the increase of automaticity of basic multiplication facts for regular education sixth graders. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Walden University, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Parkhurst, J., et al. (2010). Efficient class-wide remediation: Using technology to identify idiosyncratic math facts for additional automaticity drills. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 6, 111-123.
Rumberger, J. L. (2013). The effects of interspersal and reinforcement on math fact accuracy and learning rate. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision March 2018