## 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.

## Fun and (Math) Games!

Saturday School A Success At Lincoln Elementary reads the headline from Madison, Wisconsin. Even on a Saturday, and even on a day that felt like summer, dozens of students at one elementary school spent the morning in class.

Every Saturday since the end of January, about 100 students have gathered for about two hours a week to get a little extra work done and to do so while having a little bit of fun. It is easy to assume that kids would want to be anywhere but school on a weekend morning, but this program is proving to be different. Instead of traditional instruction, students learn through playing games.

It seems somehow sad to me that kids are allowed to have fun with math only on Saturdays. Why isn’t math engaging, challenging, and fun all the time? As a veteran elementary teacher, I do understand that teachers feel like they don’t have enough time to teach all of the content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would they ever want to add more material in the form of math games when they can’t seem to finish the assigned math textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate math games in the classroom can lead to rich results. I’ve been using games to teach mathematics for many years, and here are some of the significant benefits of doing so:

Benefits of Using Math Games in the Classroom

• Meets Mathematics Standards
• Easily Linked to Any Mathematics Textbook
• Offers Multiple Assessment Opportunities
• Meets the Needs of Diverse Learners (UA)
• Supports Concept Development in Math
• Encourages Mathematical Reasoning
• Engaging (maintains interest)
• Repeatable (reuse often & sustain involvement
• Open-Ended (allows for multiple approaches & solutions)
• Easy to Prepare
• Easy to Vary for Extended Use & Differentiated Instruction
• Improves Basic Skills
• Enhances Number and Operation Sense
• Encourages Strategic Thinking
• Promotes Mathematical Communication
• Promotes Positive Attitudes Toward Math
• Encourages Parent Involvement

Pick a skill that your students need to practice. One of the big ones is subtraction at any level. Kindergarteners through 6th graders find subtraction to be a challenge. Here’s a great double-digit subtraction game:

500 Shakedown

What you need:
2 players
2 dice
paper and pencil for each

Each player starts with 500 points.

Player #1 rolls the dice and makes the biggest two-digit number he/she can. Now he/she subtracts this number from 500.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 2 and a 4 and makes 42. Now he/she subtracts 42 from 500.

Player #2 rolls the dice and does the same. Players continue to alternate turns. The first person to reach 0 wins.

There’s only one complication! When you throw a 1, the rules change. You don’t subtract. Instead you make the smallest two-digit number you can and add.

Example: If the player throws a 1 and a 5, the smallest two-digit number is 15. So he/she adds 15 to the total.

Variation: Start with 5,000 points and use three dice or start with 50,000 and use 4 dice.

## In Terms of Decimals, Math Is the Best Game in Town!

Ask fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers about decimals and the question is followed by groans of dissatisfaction. Basically, the groans stem from the lack of success that teachers have in teaching this concept. As one student put it, a decimal is “a thing that makes numbers even more confusing”.

Teachers can get some help in this area by playing decimal math games with their students. A math game has advantages over the traditional approach. Playing a game increases the excitement of any mathematics lesson, and games are engaging and give students the chance to cooperate and communicate with their peers. The following decimal games are two student favorites:

Decimal Dice

What you need:
2 players
two dice
paper and pencil.

Player #1 rolls the dice one at a time. The first number rolled is the whole number and the second number rolled is the decimal.

Example: Player #1 rolls a two and then a 6 – the score is 2.6

Player #1 records this decimal at the top of his/her paper.

Player #2 rolls the dice, one at a time, and records his/her score.

Players continue to alternate turns until each player has 10 decimals.

Player #1 adds his/her 10 decimals together. Player #2 does the same. Players exchange papers and check each other’s addition.

For each double rolled (2.2, 3.3, 6.6, etc.) you add 10 bonus points to your final score.

The player with the highest sum wins the game.

Variation: This game can also be played with subtraction. Begin with a score of 100. Roll the dice in the same manner and subtract your decimal from your score. If you roll doubles, subtract 10 bonus points. The person with the LOWEST score wins!

Decimal Dice 2

What you need:
2 players
two dice
paper and pencils

In this game, each player will roll the two dice exactly three times. At the end of three rounds, the player closest to 10 wins the game.

Player #1 rolls both dice. Player #1 must decide which of the numbers is the whole number and which is the decimal.

Example: Player #1 rolls a two and a 6 – he/she decides whether to
make 2.6 or 6.2

Player #1 records this decimal on his/her recording sheet.

Player #2 rolls both dice. Player #2 must decide which of the numbers is the whole number and which is the decimal and record this on his/her recording sheet.

Players continue to alternate turns until each player has thrown the dice three times.

Players add their decimals. Players exchange papers and check each other’s addition.

The player with the sum closest to 10 wins the game.

## Basic Math Skills and Meaningful Jobs

Being able to read, write, and do basic math is a requirement for almost any meaningful job these days. The reason we have to spend so many resources on remedial work, whether that be at universities, community colleges or other adult education programs, is some adults did not learn their basic math facts when their young minds were most capable of learning.

That is true today, and it will be true in the future. In order for your child to have success with more advanced math, and be prepared for a future with a meaningful job, it is essential that they memorize their basic math facts to the level of automaticity.

Your child is introduced to basic math concepts such as counting and simple adding in kindergarten.

First graders and second graders should have addition and subtraction combinations to 20 at their fingertips.

Third graders and fourth graders need to master the multiplication tables to 12×12 and the related division facts.

The exact order and manner in which math facts and concepts are introduced varies with the curriculum your child’s school uses and math standards, which can vary from state to state, but the above is a general guide.

Essentially, your child should demonstrate mastery of these types of facts by the end of fourth grade in order to be prepared for the challenges of more advanced math. It may come quickly for your child, or it may take time, but through focused practice, they will be able to increase their proficiency.

This can be achieved through skill and drill repetition (dittos, workbook pages, timed tests, and/or flashcards) which is usually extremely boring and tedious. There is another more effective, creative, and fun method. Math games! Games are engaging (maintain interest); dittos, workbook pages, or flash cards rarely are.

Parents can offer greater opportunities for their child to succeed in math if they support the learning of the basics at home. 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 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?

Games are fun and create a context for developing children’s mathematical reasoning. Through playing and analyzing games, children also gain computational fluency by describing more efficient strategies and discussing relationships among numbers.

Games teach or reinforce many of the skills that a formal curriculum teaches, plus a skill that math homework sometimes, mistakenly, leaves out – the skill of having fun with math, of thinking hard and enjoying it.

## Memorizing the Basic Facts with Math Games

Frank L. Palaia, PhD, is a science teacher in the Lee County School District and at Edison State College. As a guest columnist for the News-Press.com of Ft. Myers, Florida, he had this to say about students in his classes, “Most students today have not memorized basic math facts in elementary and middle school. Each year there will be otherwise intelligent junior or senior students in my high-school classes who asks a question like, “What is eight times seven?”

As an elementary math specialist, 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 can offer greater opportunities for their child to succeed in math if they 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 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 (I’m sure you remember memorizing 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?

Games are fun and create a context for developing children’s mathematical reasoning. Through playing and analyzing games, children also gain computational fluency by describing more efficient strategies and discussing relationships among numbers.

First graders and second graders need to have the addition facts to 10 in long-term memory. When they hear 6+4, they immediately know (without counting fingers) that the answer is 10. Using fingers to count is a good, early strategy but with practice, those facts should be automatic.

Third graders and fourth graders need to have all of the multiplication facts to automaticity.

Methods such as flash cards, dittos, and workbook pages stress rote memorization of basic number facts and are usually boring and do not require learners to participate actively in thought and reflection. They do not go easily or quickly into long-term memory.

Games teach or reinforce many of the skills that a formal curriculum teaches, plus a skill that math homework sometimes, mistakenly, leaves out – the skill of having fun with math, of thinking hard and enjoying it.

## Math Games and At-Risk Kids

As an elementary mathematics specialist, I work in K-6 classrooms all the time. Time after time teachers ask the same question, “How do I help floundering students who lack basic math skills?” In every class there are a handful of students who are at risk of failure in math.

What can be done for such students? How can we help children be proficient at the basic skills.

Struggling math students typically need a great deal of practice. Math games can be an effective way to stimulate student practice.

First graders and second graders need to have the addition facts to 10 in long-term memory. When they hear 6+4, they immediately know (without counting fingers) that the answer is 10. Using fingers to count is a good, early strategy but with practice, those facts should be automatic.

Family Fact Feud is a great game for achieving that goal.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Players sit side by side (not across from each other)

Teacher/parent decides the particular fact to practice (i.e. +1, +2, +3, etc.) Once the constant addend is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the cards evenly between themselves. Each player turns over one card and adds that card to the constant addend in the middle. The player with the highest sum collects both cards. Players must verbalize the math sentence.

Example:
Teacher/parent decides the constant addend will be +1.

Player #1 turns over a 5, and says, “5 + 1 = 6”.
Player #2 turns over an 8 and says, “8 + 1 = 9”.

Player #2 collects both cards.

In the event of a tie (both players have the same sum), each player turns over one more card and adds this card to the 1. The player with the greatest sum takes all four cards.

When the deck is finished up, players count their cards. The player with the most cards is the winner.

Third graders and fourth graders need to have all of the multiplication facts to automaticity.

Multiplication Fact Feud is great for that.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Teacher/parent 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:
Teacher/parent selects x5 as the constant.

Player #1 draws a 4 and says, “4 x 5 = 20”.
Player #2 draws a 7 and says “7 x 5 = 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.

## Integer Addition Games

There are several highly effective math games which can deepen children’s understanding of integer computation and help them make sense of the concepts underlying the addition of integers. These three games would be appropriate for fourth graders, fifth graders, and sixth graders.

What you need:
2 or more players of equal skill level
regular deck of cards (Jack = 11, Queen = 12, King = 0)
(red cards are negative numbers, black cards are positive numbers)

Players divide the cards evenly between themselves and place them in a pile face down in front of themselves. Each player then turns over one card at the same time. Players must add the two numbers. The first player who says the correct sum out loud collects both cards.

Example:
Player #1 turns over a red 8.
Player #2 turns over a black 3.
-8 + 3 = -5

When the piles are used up, players count their cards. The player with the most cards wins.

In the event of a tie, both players turn over one more card. The first player who says the correct sum out loud collects all 4 cards.

What you need:
2 players
regular deck of cards – remove Jacks, Queens, and Kings
(red cards are negative numbers, black cards are positive numbers)

Players divide the cards evenly between themselves and place them in a pile face down in front of themselves. Players turn over two cards each and add them.

Example:
Player #1 turns over a red 5 and a red 2 (-5 + -2 = -7) Player #2 turns over a black 3 and a red 4 (3 + -4 = -1)

The player with the greatest sum collects the four cards. In the event of a tie (i.e. both have the same sum), each player lays down two more cards and adds them together. The player with the largest sum takes all 8 cards.

When the piles are used up, players count their cards. The player with the most cards wins.

Variation: Play 3 addend addition with cards still holding positive and negative values.

What you need:
2 players or 2 teams of two
standard deck of cards – face cards removed
Red is negative. Black is positive.

Shuffle deck and place face down in center of table.

Player #1 turns over the top card and places it face up on the table.

Player #2 draws a card and does not look at it. Player 2 holds the card above his or her eyes so that player #1 can see it.

Player #1 combines the 2 cards mentally and says the sum out loud.

Player #2 listens and decides what his or her card must be and says that number out loud.

Esample:
Player #1 turns over a red 8 and both players see it.
Player #2 picks up a card and, without looking at it, puts it on his head so that only player #1 can see it. It is a black 4.
Player #1 says, “-8 + your number equals -4”.

Both players decide if the response is correct. If it is, player #1 gets 1 point.

Players reverse roles and play continues until one player or team has 10 points.

## The Perfect Math Game!

Are you looking for creative and engaging ways to help your students/children learn basic math concepts and skills?

Teachers and parents often ask for suggestions about activities to do with their children at school and at home to help further their mathematical understanding. I’ve been teaching math to children for many years, and I’ve found that math games are, from a teacher’s and a parent’s point of view, wonderfully useful. Math games put children in exactly the right frame of mind for learning. Children are normally very eager to play games. They relax when they play, and they concentrate. They don’t mind repeating certain facts or procedures over and over.

Children throw themselves into playing games the way they never throw themselves into filling out workbook pages or dittos. And games can help children learn almost everything they need to master in elementary math. Good, child-centered games are designed to take the boredom and frustration out of the repetitive practice necessary for children to master important math skills and concepts.

Playing math games is even more beneficial than spending the same amount of time drilling basic facts using flash cards. Not only are games a lot more fun, but the potential for learning and reasoning about mathematics is much greater, as well. In a non-threatening game format, children will be more focused and retention will be greater.

Math games are the perfect way to develop, reinforce, and extend children’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?

One of the most effective and engaging math games is War. It has many variations. Give one or more of the following a try:

More or Less

Many of you may know this game as “War”. For mathematical purposes, I think it is more appropriate to call it “More” or “Less”.

What you need:
2 players
1 deck of cards

Shuffle cards well and deal them face-down equally to all players. Players do not look at their cards. All players turn over their top card at the same time. The player with the greatest number (More) collects all the cards. In the event of a tie, players turn over one more card and put it on top of their first card. The player with the biggest number takes all four cards.

Each player might add the two cards together and the player with the biggest total would take all four cards. Or the biggest number on the second card turned over could be the winner. You decide what is most appropriate.

You follow the same rules to play “Less”. The player with the smallest number wins the cards.

Variations:

Addition War – Each player turns over two cards and adds them together. The player with the greatest sum or the smallest sum (you decide which) wins all four cards.

Addition War (3, 4, 5, etc. addends) – Each player turns over three cards and adds them together.

Subtraction War – Each player turns over two cards and subtracts the smaller number from the larger number. The player with the smallest or greatest difference (you decide which) wins.

Addition and Subtraction War – Each player turns over two cards and adds them together. Then each player turns over one more card and subtracts it from their sum. The player with the greatest or smallest difference wins. I like this game because it involves the use of two operations.

Product War – Turn up two cards and multiply.

Product War II– Turn up three (or more) cards and multiply.

Product War (advanced) – Each player turns up three cards and moves them around and arranges them in a problem where two-digit number is multiplied by a one-digit number. The player with the greatest or least product (you decide) wins.

Division War – Each player turns up three cards and moves them around and arranges them in a problem where two-digit number is divided by a one-digit number. The player with the least or greatest quotient (you decide) wins.

Fraction War – Each player turns up two cards and use the larger card as the numerator and the smaller card as the denominator (or vice versa, whichever you choose). The player with the greatest or least fraction (you choose) wins.

Integer Addition War – Each player takes two cards and adds them together. Red cards are negative (I’m in the red), and black cards are positive. The greatest sum wins.

## A Math Game for Third Graders

Math games are a highly effective and engaging way to get students involved in practicing basic math skills. The following double-digit addition math game is great for second graders, third graders, and fourth graders. It not only addresses addition but forces students to look at the importance of place value.

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 problem whose sum will be as close to 100 as he/she can make it. Player #1 records this problem on his/her paper.

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.

Variation: Make this a triple-digit addition game called Get Close to 1000! by drawing 6 cards and creating two triple-digit numbers which when added together, get as close to 1000 as possible.

## A Math Game for Fourth Graders

By the time students reach 4th grade, they should be getting fairly good at multiplication. Students need dozens of repetitions of each multiplication fact before it is solidly in long-term memory. The following math game is appropriate for fourth graders. It helps them practice their multiplication skills and extends their knowledge into exponents.

Exponent War

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards 1 – 5, or 1 – 9 (for advanced players)
paper and pencils

Shuffle cards. Players divide cards evenly between themselves. Players turn over two cards each. The first card turned up is the base card and the second card is the exponent.

Example: Player #1 turns up a 3 then a 4. His/her total is 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 81.

The player with the highest total wins all four cards. Play continues until one all the cards are gone. The player with the most cards is the winner.

In the event of a tie, each player get two more cards. In the same manner, the player with the highest total wins all 8 cards.