Tips and Info

The key to The Quarter Mile Math is its simplicity. That said, it’s helpful to get additional insights about how the program works and suggestions as to how to use it as effectively as possible to enhance a student’s progress in math.

On this page, we will share ideas and information to help you in your homeschooling. If you’d like to receive the new tips as soon as we post them, sign up for our “Tips & Info” email newsletter.

If you’d like to hear from other parents about how they’re using The Quarter Mile Math, go to Users’ Forum.


TIP: How much time should a student practice The Quarter Mile Math and how often?

TIP: How to help struggling students excel using The Quarter Mile Math

INFO: How The Quarter Mile Math Uses Positive Reinforcement

TIP: How much time should a student practice The Quarter Mile Math and how often?

The "law of frequency"

The more frequently we encounter an idea or experience, the more likely we are to remember it. That's known as the "law of frequency," and it certainly applies to The Quarter Mile Math. Parents find that having their children use The Quarter Mile for short periods of time on multiple days of the week is more effective than when they use it for a long period of time but just once a week. In other words, a student is likely to progress faster by practicing 10 minutes per day, 5 days a week than 50 minutes once a week.

Determining the duration of practice sessions

How much time should a student spend with The Quarter Mile Math during a session? That varies from student to student, but a minimum amount of time is 10 to 15 minutes. Twenty to 30 minutes can be even better. Since students are competing against their five previous best races, the first race or two gives them a chance to warm up. From there, they can really dig in and make some good progress.

On a given day, a student might feel motivated to race for an extended period of time. Perhaps he or she has set a personal goal of bringing their top five average elapsed time below 10 seconds or achieving a top speed of 200 mph. When this kind of mental exertion is voluntary, it's fun, and can give students a real sense of accomplishment. Because the racing format is fast paced and self competitive, however, it can be tiring. So, some students may need to take a short break after 15 to 20 minutes. After resting, students often get their best scores of the day. That's because they're still warmed up but feel refreshed.

Research on The Quarter Mile Math as it relates to your child's improvement

When the University of Sonoma did their independent research study of The Quarter Mile Math, they found that the average student improved their math skills by 35% over the course of the multi-week study vs. the group that wasn't using The Quarter Mile. (That group increased an average of only 14%.) Since the study was conducted in public schools, the students didn't get to use The Quarter Mile Math as often as they would have if they had been working at home. The duration of each session was also limited since the research was conducted in school computer labs. One of the findings of the study was that "the more the students used the program, the more the students gained in their math abilities...." Given a study among home users where computer time is more available, we would expect an even higher degree of improvement!

TIP: How to help struggling students excel using The Quarter Mile Math

Millions of students struggle with math--it is one of the most common challenges for students. And since math is such an integral part of a student's education, a struggling student can feel challenged both intellectually and emotionally. The Quarter Mile Math's format is especially suited for these students. Because students don't have to compete against anyone or anything else, it's an ideal environment for students who need to work on their confidence in math in addition to the math itself.

Laying a solid foundation

A key to working through such challenges starts with laying a solid foundation. To help students improve their math speed and confidence using The Quarter Mile Math, start them off in a topic they’ve already mastered. It’s fine if it’s a topic several years below their grade level. (Note: We don’t assign grade levels to topics for just this reason.) Working in a topic where they’re answering problems from memory rather than having to do on-the-fly mental calculating is a great way to start off for a couple reasons:

  1. It gives students the experience of successfully doing math without the anguish.
  2. It gets students used to The Quarter Mile Math’s self-competitive racing format. (You can help diminish any potential feelings of anxiety by letting students know that they’re not expected to come in first every time and that coming in second, third, fourth, fifth, and even sixth is normal as their elapsed times gradually improve.)

After a few races (or many races), you should start to see that students have become more confident and are able to type in the answers faster. At this point, try moving them into a topic where they will need to do some mental calculating.

The emotional component to doing math

Sometimes it is prudent to leave students in a Quarter Mile Math topic beyond the time when you think they’ve mastered it. This is because they might be very proficient at the topic intellectually, but may not be ready to move on to the next topic emotionally. Having students stay in a topic and enjoy being proficient at it can help solidify their foundation. When they finally do move on to the next topic, they will likely have greater patience with themselves as they tackle the next challenge, and a renewed confidence in their ability to master it.

For more information on this topic, click on the links below:

Video: "The Quarter Mile Math addresses the emotional component of learning math" (Run time: 1 min, 7 sec. Of the three videos, it's the one on the right.)

Special section: "Students needing extra support"


INFO: How The Quarter Mile Math Uses Positive Reinforcement


Researchers have consistently found that positive reinforcement is very effective in a learning environment. The Quarter Mile Math format just naturally embodies this idea to help students improve their math skills. Positive reinforcement is one of the key aspects of The Quarter Mile. Below are several ways in which it's used in the program.

Of course, the ideas below can be applied to other areas of a curriculum. Here are several ways in which it's used in the program.

No negative reinforcement for wrong answers. If a student enters an incorrect answer, the car or riderless horse maintains the same speed and waits for the student to try again. If the wrong answer is entered three times in a row, The Quarter Mile Math reveals the correct answer, then waits for the student to type it in. That correct answer is rewarded—the car or horse accelerates as it would with any other correct answer.

Other software programs tend to inadvertently reward students for answering incorrectly because the animation associated with a mistake—explosions and crashes, for instance—are so entertaining. Students start to purposely answer incorrectly to see the animation again, and that cuts into their learning time on the computer.

Top five averages can never get worse. If students finish a race in last place, the score for that race is thrown out. Only the previous best five races are averaged together. Because of this, top five average scores can never get worse. This is very important for a student's self-esteem.

Micro improvements are detected. Sometimes when students improve, the improvement is so slight that even a parent or teacher wouldn't be able to detect it. But The Quarter Mile Math recognizes that improvement and rewards the accomplishment with a faster elapsed time. You'll find a more detailed explanation of how this works in our video: "How The Quarter Mile Math detects the smallest improvements in math" (Click here to see it.)

Tangible proof of improvement witnessed over time. Because of the way math scores are tracked in The Quarter Mile Math – race after race, day after day – students are constantly seeing proof that they are improving their math abilities. This consistent positive reinforcement can benefit their education in ways that extend far beyond the use of The Quarter Mile Math itself. It can positively affect their attitudes about their personal learning potential in general.


“The kids really, really love it.... They ask me every day, “Can we play it?”
Pam Drozd, Homeschooling parent, Naperville, IL
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