Help Students Master Math Facts
Teacher's share tips and activities
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
My students average numbers constantly! It may be the percentage of time spent reading vs. the percentage of the time spent writing, or taking the number of people who made A's, B's, etc. and producing a graph, chart, or diagram. I ask them to do the work in their heads, so it can be quite challenging. It's a challenge that is not counted in their grades. My math teacher uses a lot of writing in her room so we complement each other. I would also suggest letting them average their own grades — they really come to understand the value of percentages and how marks count.
–Kristina Smith, New Braunfels, TX, 7th grade
Write the formula you want them to practice on an index card, providing one example. The next day, give a quick five-problem quiz. Addition of Integers:
Ex: (+1)+(+2)= +3
(-3)+(-2)= -5 When the sign is the same, add.
(-3)+(+2)= -1 When the signs are different, subtract. Follow the sign of the greater number.
–Susan, New York, NY, Grades 6-8
We make our own flashcards. As I write each fact on the board, the students copy it onto their card. One side has the entire fact with the answer, the other has the fact, e.g., 8 + 7. We work on one family a week. Also, the students write the family of facts, copying mine from the board, for example,
8 + 7 = 15
7 + 8 = 15
15 - 8 = 7
15 - 7 = 8
Using their family of facts sheet, the students complete a set of worksheets for the family. This repetitious and familiar practice has enhanced my students'math facts proficiency.
–Josie Schrader, Westlake, OH, 2nd and 3rd grade
While I student taught last semester, my students were working on multiplication and division, and to help them master their facts we did a lot of work on fact families. We focused on the multiplication and division facts within a fact family for one number, for example they might have had 2 x 3 = 6 and 3 x 2 = 6, 6/3 = 2, and 6/2 = 3. I took a turkey pattern and assigned each child a number to write in the middle of the turkey, they then were given four feather cutouts that they had to write the fact on for that number. Each student was given several numbers to do this activity with, then I had the turkeys and feathers laminated so that we could use them over and over to review without them getting messed up. We did several different games with them, such as giving each student several turkeys and then calling out the fact. The student with the turkey that it matched would then claim that feather and the first person with all of their feathers would win a small prize/sticker/candy, and the game would continue.
We also used them in a sorting activity when we used centers to review. In this case, the students had all of the turkeys lined up and then the pile of feathers. They had to sort the feathers out so that they matched the correct turkey. These activities could be adjusted to the current season or unit being used in the classroom, such as, a flower with fact petals, points on a snowflake, features on a jack-o'-lantern, or parts to a puzzle, just to name a few! All and all, the fourth graders loved using them in all different ways, and they learned a lot in a very fun and non-threatening way. Great activity to continue using throughout the year as a time filler during math when students finish their work early!
–Elizabeth Cochran, Hagerstown, MD, 4th grade
Get a deck of regular playing cards and remove the picture cards. The two players split the deck evenly. Hold cards facedown and at an agreed signal, turn the top card over. Players multiply numbers mentally. The first to call out the correct answer takes both cards and places them under their pile. If players put out the same card, they then have war. They each put down two more cards and call out the product of the final pair of cards. Winner takes all the cards. Keep playing until someone has won all the cards or give a time limit. The person having the most cards then wins. This game can be used for addition and subtraction facts as well. Picture cards can be used if you want to go further than the 10 table. Ace is equal to 1.
–Sandra Horowitz, Peekskill, NY, 4th grade
In my class, we play a math fact game called "Around the World" with our chairs arranged in a circle. We play this game with addition facts as well as multiplication facts. To begin the game, the first two students stand and I show them a fact. The first to give the answer remains standing for the next challenge, and the other student sits in the winner's vacant seat. The next student in the circle then joins the challenge and whoever answers the fact stays, while the loser of that round sits in the vacated seat. The object of the game is to move around the circle by answering the math facts. The winner is the first person to make it back to his or her original seat. The students love this game!
–Vivian Gilliard, Hinesville, GA, 5th grade
We play multiplication games — it is a fun way to practice and learn facts. One game requires a deck of cards and a score sheet. Each student draws two cards and multiplies them together for a total. Each student takes turns until a round is complete (five turns each). They then add up their totals to find a winner.
–Debra Horrall, Perrysburg, OH, 3rd grade
In our second grade, students work on math facts flash cards weekly as a homework assignment. We created a worksheet that has flashcards with the first number missing. They fill in whatever number they're working on, say 4s. Then they cut them out and put the answers on the back, and practice them. When they think they know them they have a parent or responsible adult quiz them. If they get them all right the adult signs the note on the back of the directions we created, that states that they got them all right in five seconds or less, and that is what they pass in for homework. They throw the flashcards away. If they got any wrong or didn't know them, the parent note is not used, instead the student writes those facts down on a piece of paper five times and passes that in for homework. They keep the flashcards they don't know at home and practice them on a regular basis until they know them. We work on addition and then subtraction. We do review sheets every so often as well. This has helped our students quite a bit.
Also, I use the "Box-it Bag-it" math program that has many math games and cooperative activities to practice facts. Lastly, on Fridays I play "Friday's Fabulous Fun Facts!", which is a game that I created. For this I divide the class into two teams. They line up. The person at the front of the line is the captain who keeps score. Whenever the captain gets to the front of the line again he or she makes a tally mark on the board. This way we also practice tallying. I use flash cards for the facts that we are currently working on and have the two people at the front of the line see who can answer the fact first. When it is answered correctly the student who got it first goes to the end of the line and takes the next person in line with them. This way their team can get the captain to the front of the line more quickly. The person who didn't answer first also goes to the end of that line and I begin again with a new fact with the two new people at the beginning of the lines. I play for as long as we have, 5–10 min. The children at the back of the lines are reminded that their team will do better if they are quiet and their teammates can concentrate when it is their turn to answer. The kids really like this. It uses competition as a motivator, but the child who doesn't know the fact will still move to the back of the line and is not embarrassed by the lack of knowledge.
–Amy Chute, West Newbury, MA, 3rd grade