Practicing math facts can be very boring and a terrible part of homework for both children and parents. BUT, we all know how important it is for students to memorize their math facts. Many teachers are moving away from timed tests in the classroom and relying on math facts to be practiced weekly at home. Unfortunately, most children don't want to practice them and it ends up being a battle for all involved!
The Common Core states all 2nd graders must "Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers." (2.OA.2) And all 3rd graders must "Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 × 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers."(3.OA.7) So, all incoming 4th graders will presumably have memorized all addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. This is an example of how rigorous the new Common Core is and how we as parents need to be aware of these standards and how we can help our children at home.
Traditional flash cards, like these addition flash cards and subtraction flash cards, are a good way to practice math skills, but you can also practice these five fun strategies for helping your children memorize their math facts without using flash cards:
1. Colored Dice: Pick up a bag of colored dice at a local bookstore or pharmacy. Students roll the dice and either add or multiply the two numbers to practice their facts. This is an easy game for them to do while you are making dinner or even sitting at a restaurant. You can play against each other and keep score of who has the greatest sum or product. As your kids get older, you can incorporate different colors to mean different operations. For example: choose 2 red dice and 1 white: Roll all 3 dice, add the 2 red dice, and then multiply by the white die. This increases children's flexibility with numbers and speed as well. I always keep dice in my purse in case we are stuck waiting somewhere!
2. Math War:
Using either a deck of playing cards or a deck you've made out of index cards, play "war" to practice facts. Split the cards between the two players. Turn over the top two cards – you can either add, subtract (keeping positive answers), or multiply the two cards to see who wins. The winner takes all 4 cards, and you play again just like the traditional card game of war. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins! My students love this game! Again, it's a very easy game to keep in the car or your purse so learning is always near.
3. 100 Chart: The 100 chart is an amazing tool to help build your children's number sense and allow them to use something concrete to memorize their facts. They can use it as a visual tool when they need a point of reference or they can use it as a tactile tool by touching the numbers or using a game piece to count forwards and backwards. For multiplication and division, have your children color in the multiples of each number so they can start to see patterns with the facts. For example: to learn the facts of 6, color in 6, 12, 18, etc. so only the multiples of 6 are colored in. Your child will start to make a connection to the products of each fact instead of just memorizing random numbers. (You can print free 100 charts off the Internet.)
4. Triangle Facts:
These are used as traditional flash cards, but they help to make the connection between all three numbers in the fact which is so important for the "memorizing" process. Choose a fact, e.g., 6 + 3 = 9. Place each number in the corner of the triangle with a star next to the answer (in this case, 9). While holding the triangular card, cover one of the numbers with your finger so your child can only see 2 numbers, then have him/her find the missing number to complete the fact. For extra practice, have your child write the 4 fact families for each card. Students can practice on their own or you can quiz them. Triangle facts are easy and fast! You can buy them, make them yourself, or print them free online.
5. I Know Cards:
This is a great way to help with the facts that your child gets stuck on every time! There are always those tough facts that students just sometimes can't remember, so making "I know cards" will help them come up with a strategy for finding the answer. For example: to help with 6 x 7 = 42, have your child write on an index card or piece of paper, "I know 6 x 6 is 36, so I add one more group of 6: 36 + 6 = 42, so 6x7=42". Your child can use whatever strategy he or she likes but the focus is on what s/he already knows, not what s/he doesn't know. You can hang the "I know cards" in their rooms or read through them weekly.