## An Effective Learn-Your-Math-Facts Strategy

All too often I hear teachers lament that their students don’t know their basic math facts. In class, students guess, freeze up, count with their fingers, or appeal to their friends or the teacher to help them out.

Why is it so important for children to memorize math facts in order to succeed academically? Quite simply, a lack of fluency in basic math fact recall significantly hinders a child’s subsequent progress with problem-solving, algebra, and higher-order math concepts. This can have a serious impact on a child’s overall self confidence and general academic performance.

The guidelines of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) state that second graders should be able to quickly recall basic addition and subtraction facts, and fourth graders must have quick recall of multiplication and division facts.

Everyone agrees that students need to learn the basic facts, but there’s far less agreement among educators about how this can best be accomplished. Many drill and practice programs have been developed to help kids memorize the basic combinations by rote. The theory is that if children hear or practice 9 plus 7 equals 16 repeatedly, they’ll eventually just remember it. Doing this with workbook pages, flash cards, or dittos can be boring and student engagement is low.

Almost every elementary teacher struggles to find effective ways to encourage students to master these basic math facts. After many years in the classroom, I have found that math games meet the varied needs of learners, offer opportunities to differentiate instruction, and are effective, motivational, and engaging.

Whether you’re a new teacher, a teacher new to teaching math at a different grade level, or a veteran teacher looking for a fresh perspective, I would encourage you to give math games a try. Games engage children and enhance their math learning.

The following game is a great one for helping third, fourth, and fifth graders learn their basic multiplication facts.

Multiplication Fact Feud

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards

Teacher decides the particular multiplication fact to practice
(i.e. x7, x4, x8, etc.) Once the constant factor is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the remaining cards evenly between themselves.

Each player turns over one card and multiplies that card by the constant in the middle. Players must verbalize their math sentence. The player with the highest product collects both cards.

Example: 5 is the constant
Player #1 turns over a 4 and says “4 times 5 equals 20″.
Player #2 turns over a 7 and says “7 times 5 equals 35″.
Player #2 would collect both cards.

In the event of a tie (i.e. both players have the same product), each player turns over one more card and multiplies that by the constant factor. The player with the highest product wins all four cards.

When the cards are all used up, the player with the most cards wins the game.

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## Math Games for Third Graders

It may seem obvious to most third grade teachers and parents of third graders that multiplication is THE big skill to be learned in third grade. There are many great multiplication games for third graders.

However, as an elementary mathematics specialist, I have noticed that a great many third graders struggle with regrouping (borrowing and carrying). Most of the time, this is because they have been taught place value with only pencil and paper activities, which are not an effective or concrete enough way to teach place value for real understanding.

Once children have developed a basic number sense for numbers up to ten, a strong “sense of ten” needs to be developed as a foundation for both place value and mental calculations.

Ten is, of course, the building block of our Base Ten numeration system. Young children can usually “read” two-digit numbers long before they understand the effect the placement of each digit has on its numerical value. For example, a five-year-old might be able to correctly read 62 as sixty-two and 26 as twenty-six, and even know which number is larger, without understanding why the numbers are of differing values.

Place value is vitally important to all later mathematics. Without it, keeping track of greater numbers rapidly becomes impossible. (Can you imagine trying to write 999 with only ones?) A thorough mastery of place value is essential to learning the operations with greater numbers. It is the foundation for regrouping in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The follow are two very effective math games for teaching and reinforcing place value:

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards – 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencil for each person

Shuffle deck and place cards in a pile face down. Players take turns taking a card until both players have 4 cards (for double –digit addition) or 6 cards (for triple-digit addition) and arrange them to make a two- or three-digit addition problem. The object is to make the greatest sum. When each player is done arranging their cards, they write their problem down and find their sum. Players exchange papers and check each other’s addition.

The player with the greatest sum scores a point. Each player takes four or 6 new cards and play continues. The first player with 10 points is the winner.

Variation #1: the player with the smallest sum wins.

Double- or Triple-Digit Subtraction

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencils

Shuffle cards well and stack them face down in a pile. Both players take four cards (for double-digit subtraction) or 6 cards (for triple-digit subtraction). Players arrange their cards to make a two-digit or three-digit subtraction problem. The object is to make the smallest difference (answer).

Players move their four or six cards around until they think they have the smallest difference (answer) possible. Each player then writes down his/her problem and solves it. Players trade papers and check each other’s computation for accuracy. Players compare answers. The player with the smallest difference (answer) scores one point.

Each player takes 4 or 6 more cards and play continues. The first player to score 10 points is the winner.

Variation: Player with the greatest difference wins.

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## Parents and Children Doing Mathematics at Home

Many parents claim that math is not their forte. Math was hard for them in school, they did not like the subject, and seem resigned to the idea that their children will not do well in math because they themselves had not done well. As a result, they do not know how to help their children in math.

“Ongoing parental involvement in mathematics – as in any subject – can provide a solid foundation for children’s learning and attitudes. When parents maintain high expectations for their children’s performance in mathematics, regularly do mathematical activities with their children, and display a positive attitude toward mathematics, children benefit. They are more likely to feel confident in their abilities; to enjoy and learn more from the mathematics they experience at school; and to develop a sense of richness, usefulness, and pervasiveness of mathematics”. So says Marlene Kliman, whose current work focus is on developing materials and methods for involving parents and their children in doing mathematics together.

Learning math takes effort and interest on the part of the learner and support on the part of the parent. And while math seems to come “naturally” to some people, most of us need to work at it.

• You have a great deal of important mathematical knowledge to share.
• Children learn best from the people who most accept and respect them.
• Learning is more lasting when it takes place in the context of familiar home experiences.
• Children must see that math is not just a subject studied in school but is used constantly in everyday family life.
• The home is an ideal place in which to learn mathematics because the problems encountered there are real, not just paragraphs in textbooks.

There is a wonderful way to take the pain and drudgery out of helping your child with math and effectively instill in your child an interest in math – play math games. I can hear you muttering to yourself, “Play math games? Is that legal? Are you allowed to have fun with math?” The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics says, “Make mathematics fun!”

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce and extend the skills children learn at school. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts (remember those times tables?) can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

This summer keep your child’s mind fresh with review, as well as new ideas, and keep those brains in tip-top shape for the following school year – play math games!

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## Math Games for Summer Break

Statistics show that over the summer break, most students lose an average of two to three months of math computational skills they learned during the previous school year. This loss of learning can mean an academic setback for some children that can take weeks, and in some cases months, to remedy when the school bells ring in the fall.

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has characterized the effects of “summer learning loss” as “devastating” and “well-documented.” And according to a 2009 report by McKinsey and Company, this backsliding represents a cost of as much as \$670 billion to the nation’s economy.”

For educators in Florida and Texas, the concerns over losing ground academically over the summer were critical. They decided to try a particular, specialized math video game.

“As they compete, students build upon basic skills like multiplication, division, and fractions, which in later years will lead to mastery of everything from proportions, number lines, and adding and subtracting integers; to order of operations, evaluating expressions, employing function tables, and solving complex equations.”

The video game that the educators in Texas and Florida were using is good but expensive. There are many online sites that host free math games, most of which are challenging, exciting, fun, and age-appropriate. That’s all well and good.

But above all else, children crave time spent with their parents. Because learning is a social process, children learn best through fun games and activities that involve interaction with other people.

There are plenty of fun math games that you and your children can play to help them retain their math skills.

Seize this opportunity to teach them your values, and indulge them with your own undivided attention. A price cannot be put on the quality of the time you will have spent with your children. They will have fun while learning, and they will remember those times with greater fondness than the times they spent playing the educational computer game.

And lastly but of great importance, among the obvious benefits of sitting down and playing a good game with your children is the opportunity that games provide to apply and solidify the mathematical reasoning and calculating skills your children are learning in school. When children play on-line or video games, parents may know how the child scores, but do they know where they made mistakes and why? Playing games with your child offers you, as a parent, a greater opportunity to know what your child’s strengths and weaknesses in mathematics are.

Get a jump start on the coming school year! Sit down and play some math games with your children.

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## Math Games = Learning + Summer Fun

Mathematics is a subject that is absolutely necessary for functioning adequately in society. More than that, mathematics is a subject that should be more enjoyable than it sometimes is. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has identified the appreciation and enjoyment of mathematics as one of the national goals for mathematics education. This goal, coupled with the task of nurturing children’s confidence in their ability to apply their mathematical knowledge to solve real-life problems, is a challenge facing every parent today.

Parents’ attitudes toward mathematics have an impact on children’s attitudes. Children whose parents show an interest in and enthusiasm for mathematics around the home will be more likely to develop that enthusiasm themselves. You Can Help Your Young Child Learn Mathematics, available in both English and Spanish, helps parents communicate the importance of mathematics to their children and become more involved in their children’s mathematical education. This pamphlet discusses ways that parents can help their children develop good study habits, and it presents activities through which families can make mathematics a part of their daily lives as they travel, cook, garden, and play games.

It is essential that, over the summer vacation, parents create active and memorable learning experiences for their children in math. Playing math games with their children is an effective way for parents to fulfill part of their responsibility for developing their children’s abilities to do mathematics, while at the same time having fun together, and encouraging more positive attitudes toward mathematics.

Teachers know that the several months off for summer vacation sees considerable slippage in their students’ math skills. Kids who practice summer math will have an easier time transitioning back to school, while kids who don’t may lose a couple months of learning.

Don’t let this summer be a math-avoidance time. Who says math has to be something your child dreads? It should, instead, be something the child looks forward to and thrives on. The trick is to teach your kids math by combining it with fun activities such as math games. All you need is a deck of cards and/or two dice!

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## Math Games for Second Graders

If you are the parent of a child who has just finished second grade and will be going into the third grade in a month or two, how are you going to keep his/her math skills honed so that he/she is completely ready for third grade math? As an elementary math specialist, I have found that math games are perfect summer skill sharpeners.

By the end of grade two, students should:

• understand place value and number relationships in addition and subtraction
• use simple concepts of multiplication
• be able to measure quantities with appropriate units
• classify shapes and see relationships among them by paying attention to their geometric attributes
• collect and analyze data and verify the answers.

As a veteran second grade teacher, I have found that understanding place value and number relationships is the most important skill that second graders need to practice and master.

The following games are two of many second grade/third grade games that help children understand and have fun with place value:

Who Will Win?

What you need:
2 players
1 die
deck of cards, 10s and face cards removed
counters (pennies, paperclips, etc.)

Player #1 takes a card and turns it over for all to see. Player #2 does the same. Player #1 takes a second card and turns it over for all to see. Player #2 does the same. Each player uses his/her two cards to make a two-digit number. Players say their numbers out loud. Player #1 rolls the die to determine who will earn a counter.

1,3,5 odd roll – the lower number earns a counter
2,4,6 even roll – the higher number earns a counter.

Players continue building numbers and alternating the throw of the die. The first player to accumulate 10 counters is the winner.

Get Close to 100

What you need:
2 – 4 players
deck of cards, 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencils for each player

The object of the game is to make a two-digit addition problem that comes as close to 100 as possible.

Shuffle cards and place them face down in a pile.

Player #1 turns over 4 cards and moves the cards around until he/she has created a two-digit addition problem whose sum will be as close to 100 as he/she can make it. Player #1 records this problem on his/her recording sheet. Player #2 checks for addition accuracy.

Example: Player #1 draws a 4, a 7, a 2, and a 5. He/she moves the cards around until she/he decides that 47 + 52 = 99 is the closest that he/she can get.

Player # 2 draws four cards and does the same.

The points for each round are the difference between their sum and 100.
Example: A sum of 95 scores 5 points and so does a sum of 105.

Players compare scores at the end of this first round. They put their four cards in a discard pile and player #2 begins first and turns over four more cards for the second round.

After six rounds, players total their points and the player with the lowest score wins.

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## Math Games for First Graders

I think that every topic in mathematics is fun if you master it and understand it. Since fun has always been a part of my teaching philosophy, I have found that math games are an enormously engaging and effective way to help children on their way to understanding and mastery in math. The greatest benefits of math games are the way they improve students’ basic arithmetic and problem-solving skills.

By the end of first grade, students should know or be able to do the following:
• understand and use the concept of ones and tens in the place value number system
• add and subtract small numbers with ease
• measure with simple units
• locate objects in space.
• describe data
• analyze and solve simple problems.

I have taught first grade for many years. If I could pick one math skill that I think is the most important skill for first graders to master, it would be the ability to know (without counting on fingers) all the addition facts to 10. Counting on fingers is a good beginning strategy, but children need to have all the facts in long-term memory and be able to recall them automatically.

What are all the facts that add to 10? (10+0, 9+1, 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 5+5, 4+6, 3+7, 2+8, 1+9, 0+10)
What are all the facts that add to 9? 8? 7? 6? 5? 4? 3? 2?

The following game is one of many that help children master these basic addition skills, while having fun:

What you need:
2 players
Add-em Up game board for each player – each player writes the numbers 2-12 horizontally at the bottom of their papers.
2 dice
Counters – paper clips, pennies, etc.

Players place a counter above each number.

Player #1 rolls the dice and adds the 2 numbers. He/she may then remove the counter over the sum from the game board or the counters over any 2 numbers that add up to that same sum.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and a 4. He/she may remove the counter above the 7 or the counters above any combination for 7, such as 1 & 6, or 2 & 5, or 3 & 4.

Players take turns rolling the dice and removing counters. When a player cannot remove counters that match the sum rolled or a combination, he/she loses that turn.

Play continues until neither player can remove counters. The player with the most counters removed wins.

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## Memorizing Multiplication Facts

Memorizing multiplication facts is an essential part of elementary education. A student who has mastered multiplication gains a solid foundation for achievement in mathematics throughout high school and beyond.

More and more in my teaching career, I see that many children struggle to memorize the multiplication tables. With the math curriculum as extensive as it is, teachers cannot afford to take the time to ensure that students learn the basic facts (sad, but true). Parents are partners in the process, and you can offer greater opportunities for your child to succeed in math if you support the learning of the basics at home. Math games fit the bill wonderfully!

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce and extend the skills children learn at school. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When working on multiplication, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of developing automatic recall of the multiplication facts. They can be boring and tedious to learn and practice.

A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

Give these games a try:

Buzz (try this game in the car, or while everyone is doing the dishes, etc.)

This game is used to review a specific fact family. The leader chooses a number between 2 and 9. The leader says 1, the next player says the 2, and so on. When they reach a multiple of the number chosen, the player says “buzz” instead of the number. If a player forgets to say buzz or says it at the wrong time, he or she is out. Play continues until the group reaches the last multiple of the number times 10.

On a piece of paper write a multiplication problem that your child is having a hard time remembering, (e.g. 7×8). Pin it to the child where he/she can easily see it.The child no longer has a name. When someone wants to speak to the him/her, they must call them by their answer (e.g. “56″).

Break My Eggs

Write numbers in the bottom of egg cartons. Write 1 through 6 in the top row and 7 through 12 in the bottom row. Put two buttons in the egg carton. Close the lid. Player #1 shakes the carton and multiplies the two number together. If Player #1 gets the correct answer, he/she gets a point. Player #2 shakes the egg carton and does the same. After 20 rounds, or 10 minutes, the player with the most points wins the game.

Want other great multiplication games – there are many! See the third grade manual of games.

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## Math Games Develop Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is one of the most important skills for children to develop. It requires the ability to observe, take in different pieces of information, analyze information, plan and analyze possible solutions, and choose the appropriate action.

Strategic thinking is a way to solve problems. Every day we have to solve the problems. Every day, we need solutions. Problem solving is an essential skill in our professional, family, and social lives.

Games like bridge, chess, and backgammon are ideal for teaching strategic thinking. But learning bridge is more than fun and games; students who play, practice math and reasoning skills and show improvements on standardized tests.

However, games such as bridge have complex rules that can take time to learn and master. Instead of using complicated games, there are many math games at every grade level that are much easier for children to learn and play. All of the math games are focused on providing engaging activities to entertain strategic mathematical thinking both inside and outside of the classroom.

If you are a teacher or parent, I encourage you to have a look at the assortment of games. You will find many that will pique your interest and and help you develop strategic thinking and problem solving abilities in your students/children while having fun!

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## Math Games and Math Homework

The finding by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel declared math education in the United States “broken” and called on schools to focus on teaching fundamental math skills that provide the underpinning for success in high tech jobs.

The panel said that students must be able to add and subtract whole numbers by the end of third grade and be skilled at adding and subtracting fractions and decimals by the end of fifth grade.

One of the ways that we, as teachers, have traditionally given students more practice on their math skills is homework, and yet, eighty-four percent of kids would rather take out the trash, clean their rooms, or go to the dentist than do their math homework.

So how can we help our students with their math skills and make math homework more engaging? Math games!

More and more in my teaching career, I see that children no longer memorize their addition facts or multiplication tables. With the math curriculum as extensive as it is, teachers cannot afford to take the time to ensure that students learn the basic facts (sad, but true!). Parents are partners in the process and will offer greater opportunities for their children to succeed in math if they support the learning of the basics at home. Games fit the bill wonderfully!

Games offer a pleasant way for parents to get involved in their children’s education. Parents don’t have to be math geniuses to play a game. They don’t have to worry about pushing or pressuring their children. All that parents have to do is propose a game to their child and start to play.

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce and extend the skills children learn at school. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

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