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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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