The Story of FactFreaks

Once upon a time, a 5th grade teacher named Mr. Hare almost pulled out his hair while trying to teach math to kids who didn’t know their math facts. “How am I supposed to teach simplifying fractions to kids who are still stuck on 8 x 7?” he fumed amid the chalk dust. “This is impossible!”

And lo, he thought it through and found that it really was impossible - because teaching all those kids all of those math facts itself was impossible. Kids learn the 26 letters of the alphabet with a short little song. There are 400 basic math facts to commit to memory; teaching them to kids to the point of mastery would require each of them to learn a symphony.

“No wonder speed tests never worked!” he thought. (40 facts per test would require 10 separate tests!) “No wonder flash cards are futile!” (Going through 400 flash cards with multiple classes of multiple students??)

And then Mr. Hare had a thought. A fabulous, fantabulous thought. “I can’t teach them all their math facts,” he thought, “but they can!

Now kids need to understand their math facts, of course - but that’s not even close to being enough. Being slow with math facts - especially in a fast-moving math class - is the same thing as not knowing them at all. “I’ll create a computer program that allows them to practice their math facts and pick up speed with them at the same time!” thought Mr. Hare. “And all without me having to grade speed tests or drill ‘em and kill ‘em with flash cards!” (For lo, Mr. Hare was lazy.)

And so a simple speed game called Fact Practice came to be, and Mr. Hare’s problems seemed to be solved.

But alas, this success was an illusion. Mr. Hare soon discovered that as his students got “faster,” their answers got wronger. “Math facts that are wrong aren’t facts at all!” he thought to his dismay.

Mr. Hare was on the very verge of giving up - but Mrs. Hare wouldn’t let him. “There has to be a way to insist on accuracy,” she insisted. “But what am I supposed to do?” Mr. Hare said in a fit of frustration. “Stop the game for every wrong answer??”

The heavens parted, the lightbulb came on, the flux capacitor started fluxing - and FactFreaks was born.

Turns out that, by outlawing wrong answers, Mr. Hare had turned math fact practice into a challenging and meaningful race against the clock - and had created the self-instructional solution to the #1 problem of overworked math teachers everywhere. No more speed tests. No more flash cards. No more tears - for the kids or the teachers. FactFreaks, in one bold stroke, turned the age-old task of learning math facts over to the kids themselves - and gave them the tools and incentive they needed to do it successfully.

Many years have passed since those days, and Mr. and Mrs. Hare and their son Phil have taken the FactFreaks concept and turned it into a 21st century application - one that’s free and instantly available to all.

May math students, math teachers, and parents everywhere take advantage of FactFreaks and live happily ever after!

Steve Hare

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