How To: Master Math Facts: Cover-Copy-Compare

This intervention promotes the acquisition of math facts. The  student is given a sheet containing math facts to practice. The student studies each math fact with answer that appears on the sheet, covers the fact briefly and copies it from memory, then compares the student-copied math fact and answer to the original correct model (Joseph et al., 2011; Skinner, McLaughlin & Logan, 1997).



Procedures: Here are the steps of Cover-Copy-Compare for math facts:


STEP 1:  [Teacher] Create a Cover-Copy-Compare math fact sheet.  The teacher selects up to 10 math facts  for the student to practice during the session and writes those facts (including number sentence and answer) as correct models into the left column of the Cover-Copy-Compare Worksheet (horizontal or vertical poblems). The teacher then pre-folds the sheet using as a guide the vertical dashed line ('fold line') dividing the left side of the student worksheet.


STEP 2: [Student] Use the Cover-Copy-Compare procedures. During the Cover-Copy-Compare intervention, the student is trained to follow these self-directed steps for each math fact:

  • Study the correctly completed math fact (model) that appears in the left column of the sheet.
  • Fold the left side of the page over at the pre-folded vertical crease to hide the original math fact ('Cover').
  • Copy from memory the math fact and answer, writing it in the first response blank under the 'Student Response' section of the Cover-Copy-Compare worksheet ('Copy').
  • Uncover the original correct model and compare it to the student response ('Compare'). If the student has written the math fact and answer CORRECTLY,  the student moves to the next item on the list and repeats these procedures. If the student has written the math fact INCORRECTLY, the student draws a line through the incorrect response, studies the correct model again, covers the model, copies the model again from memory into the second response blank under the 'Student Response' section of the sheet, and again checks the correctness of the copied item..
  • Continue until all math facts on the sheet have been copied and checked against the correct models.

STEP 3: [Teacher] Log: items mastered by the student. The teacher should formulate an objective standard for judging that the student using Cover-Copy-Compare has 'mastered' a particular math fact (e.g., when the student is able to copy that fact with answer from memory without error on three successive occasions).  The teacher can then apply this standard for mastery to identify and log items mastered in each session, using the appropriate Cover-Copy-Compare Log Sheet. 


Variations:  One modification of Cover-Copy-Compare that may make it even more effective is to have the student respond orally. The student covers the original math fact and orally states the fact and answer rather than putting it in writing (Skinner, Bamberg, Smith, & Powell, 1993). Because students can often respond more quickly by stating rather than writing their response, oral responding can speed the task and result in a larger number of effective learning trials in the time allocated.


  • Joseph, L. M., Konrad, M., Cates, G., Vajcner, T., Eveleigh, E., & Fishley, K. M. (2011). A meta-analytic review of the cover-copy-compare and variations of this self-management procedure. Psychology in the Schools, 49(2), 122-136.
  • Skinner, C. H., Bamberg, H. W., Smith, E. S., & Powell, S. S. (1993). Cognitive cover, copy, and compare: Subvocal responding to increase rates of accurate division responding. Remedial and Special Education, 14(1), 49-56.
  • Skinner, C. H., McLaughlin, T. F., & Logan, P. (1997). Cover, copy, and compare: A self-managed academic intervention effective across skills, students, and settings. Journal of Behavioral Education, 7, 295-306.