Math Facts–Part 2.  Last week I discussed the importance of learning math facts to the point of automaticity or fluency (click here if you missed it).  This week I am sharing a few strategies and tips.  First, and I cannot stress this enough, it is so important that math facts be learned systematically.  Whether your child is learning his addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts, they must be learned systematically.  For example, when teaching your child his multiplication facts, teach them in this order 0’s, 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, 10’s, 11’s.  When he knows all of them, he will already know 108 out of the 144 facts! Then teach him the 9’s (if you don’t know the easy peasy fingers trick for 9’s, call me).  He will then known 119 out of 144 facts! Make sure you teach one set (all the 5’s for example) to mastery, and then mix in the ones previously learned (0’s, 1’s, 2’s, 3’s) for continued practice.  

Here are some more tips…

Ditch the store-bought flashcards and make your own.  Store-bought cards encourage ineffective practice. Most people simply plow through the whole stack without a logical plan.  Instead, make your own and then you will have 144 cards that you can use systematically.

Work in small increments (about five minutes) several times a day.  This is more effective than long, frustrating sessions.

Print out a 12 x 12 chart and when the child has mastered a math fact set (e.g., all the 5’s) color in that corresponding row and corresponding column so that he can see how many they have learned (and how few there are left!) as well as the relationship among the facts.

Here are a few sayings or rhymes that also can help with multiplication facts:

4 x 4 = 16   “To drive a 4 by 4, you have to be 16.”

7 x 7 = 49   “7 and 7 sat on a vine, one fell off it’s 49.”

8 x 8 = 64  “I ate (8) and I ate (8) till I got sick on the floor (64).”  Gross, but memorable.

There are plenty of apps and computer games out there to practice math facts.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like the interaction of working with the child 1-on-1 with the homemade cards.  Those electronic versions have their place, however, as long as they can be set up to review facts in a methodical manner described above.

These same basic concepts of working systematically with your child should be used for learning addition and subtraction facts as well.