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Constant Time Delay: 3 Simple Steps to Help Your Students Master Multiplication Facts

by | Jun 3, 2020 | Math Instruction, STEM & STEAM, Teaching Strategies | 1 comment

Have you been wondering how to improve your students’ fluency in multiplication? You’re not the only one! You can help your students become more precise and accurate with their multiplication facts by using a strategy called Constant Time Delay. This article will discuss this strategy and demonstrate how to incorporate it into your classroom in 3 easy steps.

Constant Time Delay

Constant Time Delay (CTD) is a strategy that uses teacher prompts to promote the accuracy of student responses. It is based on a stimulus-response cycle during which the teacher provides the stimulus and, ideally, the student provides an accurate response. However, when a student does not respond or does not respond accurately, the teacher uses a prompt to guide them. This sequence of events (stimulus-response or stimulus-response then prompt) is what makes CTD so effective. In each occurrence of a stimulus, the student has the opportunity for independent practice to demonstrate mastery. In the event that they do not demonstrate mastery, the teacher provides a prompt; then the student has another opportunity for independent practice.

When teaching multiplication facts, you can use CTD with students to improve their speed and accuracy. You can also use it to help students who may be struggling with multiplication facts and need prompts and reinforcement to move toward mastery. The following information will guide you through the steps for implementing CTD to improve the math fluency of your students in the area of multiplication facts.

 

STEP 1: Preparation

Preparing for CTD is important because you will be using specific materials and a timed protocol during implementation. You need to be able to start the strategy and proceed through the implementation without interruptions. In order to do this, you need to gather materials, determine your data collection method, and review the implementation protocol. The materials you will need to gather include flashcards, a data collection sheet for the session, and any previously collected data.

Previously collected data will help you determine where you need to start with a student. Is this the first time using CTD with a student? If so, you can reflect on why you feel you want to use this strategy. Is the student having difficulty with all multiplication facts? With certain multiplication facts? Asking yourself those questions will help you determine a starting point.

Once you have determined a starting point you will need to gather the appropriate flash cards. Next, decide how you want to collect data. A data collection sheet will help you measure student progress over time. A sample data collection sheet is provided in the Downloads section below. You can modify this to fit your needs.

Finally, review the protocol for implementing CTD. Practice reading the flashcards you will be using so that your responses to the student are delivered smoothly and consistently without additional commentary. Avoid adding in commentary such as, “That’s a hard fact. I always have to think about that one.” Also, it may not feel natural or familiar to go through a set of flashcards the way you will during constant time delay. So determine where you will place the cards prior to your session. Will you hold all of them? Will you pull them from a stack? Where will you set the cards once you use them? Do they go back into the group? Do you place correctly answered cards and incorrectly answered cards in separate piles? This may take some time to figure out but practice before you begin with the students so that your implementation step is distraction-free. You can access a sample script in the Downloads section below to use as practice.

During the preparation, you will have determined a starting point for your CTD session, gathered your materials, and decided how you will collect data during CTD the session. After that, it’s time to get started!

 

STEP 2: Implementation

Once you have all of your materials ready and have reviewed the protocol, you are ready to implement CTD. During implementation, you will be presenting the student with a flashcard and allowing them time to state the multiplication fact and provide the answer. There is little to no other conversation occurring during a session.

Here is a short sample of what CTD implementation would look like:

EXAMPLE 1: IDEAL SCENARIO
  1. Teacher holds up flash card with: 9 X 8 = _______
  2. The student reads the card and provides an answer: “Nine times eight equals seventy-two.”
  3. The teacher says: That is correct. Nice job!

That is the ideal scenario for a student demonstrating mastery of multiplication facts during the implementation of CTD. However, the reason you are using CTD is most likely because a student is not demonstrating mastery. The sequence of steps used in CTD when a student is not successful is what research has shown to be effective.

Let’s look at another example.

EXAMPLE 2: NON IDEAL SCENARIO
  1. The teacher holds up flash card with:  9 X 7 = _______
  2. The student reads card but does not answer:  “Nine times seven equals”
  3. The teacher waits 4 seconds /counts silently to 4
  4. The teacher says:  “Nine times seven equals sixty-three.”
  5. The student says:  “Nine times seven equals sixty-three.”
  6. The teacher moves on to the next card

Remember at the beginning of this article I mentioned that CTD was based on the stimulus-response cycle? The stimulus is the teacher presenting the multiplication fact to be stated. The desired response is the student stating the correct answer to the fact without the need for a prompt. When that does not occur, the teacher uses a prompt to guide the student to the correct answer.

THE STIMULUS-RESPONSE CYCLE

Stimulus: Teacher holds up flash card with 9 X 7 = _______

Opportunity for Independent Practice: Student reads card but does not answer: “Nine times seven equals”

The teacher waits 4 seconds /counts silently to 4

Teacher Demonstration as a Prompt: Teacher: “Nine times seven equals sixty-three.”

Opportunity for Independent Practice: Student: “Nine times seven equals sixty-three.”

Now that you are familiar with the implementation of CTD in the classroom you can revisit your thoughts about data collection during the CTD session. You may feel that you have a good idea of how you want to collect data. You may also find that the way you collect data changes after you begin implementing CTD and it may vary based on the goals you have set for each student. However you decide to collect data, it is important to evaluate it so that you measure student progress.

 

STEP 3: Evaluation

Taking a few minutes to look over your student’s results after a session of CTD is important for several reasons. First, you can inform students of their progress. Second, you can note student progress and determine the starting point for your next session with the student. Third, you can determine if you need to make any variations in your implementation of CTD. An example of a variation would be that a student was able to state the correct response but not in the 4-second count. You may decide that you want to allow 6 seconds until you see progress and then shorten the time allowed for response to 5 seconds then 4 seconds. Finally, reviewing the data can help you determine the next steps you need to take with the student. Do they need other intensive strategies? Are they showing progress at the rate you are expecting? Do you need to take a closer look at their skills?

CTD can be a successful strategy for many students who are struggling with multiplication facts. It can be implemented in your classroom in three steps, with relatively few materials, and in short periods of time.

Implementation Goal

Now it’s your turn to give Constant Time Delay a try in your classroom! Begin by identifying two students you think would benefit from CTD. Then, prepare, implement, and evaluate! Prepare by using the Quick Guide to Constant Time Delay to guide you through gathering materials, planning time for implementation, and choosing a data collection strategy. Implement the strategy with the two students and track their progress over two weeks with a minimum of 4 sessions. Mark their progress and graph it with them.

Related Professional Development Courses

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Inquiry Based Learning: Using Inquiry as a Teaching Strategy

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DOWNLOADS & RESOURCES

Quick Guide to Constant Time Delay

This guide has explicit instructions on the three steps used to implement Constant Time Delay in the classroom. It also has some FAQS that may come up when someone is first learning how to use the strategy.

Data Collection Sheet

Use this Data Collection Sheet to evaluate your CTD evaluation.  Use the documents below for further reference and instructions on how to use it.

Detailed instructions for the Data Collection Sheet >

Example Data Collection Sheet >

Sample Scripts for Constant Time Delay

This document includes sample scripts to use for your CTD lessons.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Walker, G. J Autism Dev Disord (2008). Constant and Progressive Time Delay Procedures for Teaching Children with Autism: A Literature Review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(2), 261-275. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-007-0390-4

  • Kurt, O., & Tekin-Iftar, E. (2008). A Comparison of Constant Time Delay and Simultaneous Prompting Within Embedded Instruction on Teaching Leisure Skills to Children With Autism. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education28(1), 53–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121408316046

Maria Kaylor

Author of this Blog Post

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