Make Memorizing Math Facts Fun With These 10 Activities
Add some of these idea to your math repertoire to make the task of learning math facts a fun and less stressful activity.
There is no discounting the importance of your child memorizing basic math facts. It can be discouraging when you know he understands the math concept for the operation but still struggles to recall basic facts quickly and accurately. You want your child to progress from using various counting strategies to having instant recall so he can focus on the complex process, the problem-solving, or the multi-step algorithm he is learning, without having to stop and ponder the answer to a simple math fact. For some students, this is a very difficult task that is the source of many hours of frustration and sometimes even tears. Teaching strategies rather than focusing on just rote memorization may help your child more easily recall basic facts.
Activities and Strategies to Practice Basic Math Facts
Learning doubles, such as 3 + 3 or 8 + 8, can be an effective strategy for learning addition facts. The nice thing about learning doubles is that there are just 10 of them, so it is a manageable goal for a child who struggles. Practicing doubles can be a natural lead-in to help your child learn neighboring facts, such as 3 + 4 and 8 + 7. (Addition)
1) Commutative Property
Teach your child that this property is the mathematical way to say, “Numbers can be added or multiplied in any order and give the same answer.” Based on this property, if your child knows 4 + 2 = 6, then he can solve 2 + 4 = 6. This approach reduces the number of addition and multiplication facts by half. (Addition, Multiplication)
2) Skip Counting
A simple strategy that your child can use is skip counting. Counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and so on can be fun to do together as your child hears patterns in numbers. When he pairs skip counting with using a hundred chart, he can even begin to visualize those patterns. For instance, when skip counting by 10s, see if he notices that all the numbers end in zero. This strategy is particularly effective when using a chart that begins with zero and ends in 99. You can print our free chart here. (Multiplication)
3) Part-Whole Relationships
Part-part-whole relationships involve seeing numbers as being made up of two or more parts. This strategy works best when used for addition or subtraction and learning related facts. Note that when working with subtraction, the whole and one part must be present. Here’s an example of how it works.
4) Fact Families Cards
This strategy is most effective when your child understands the relationship between addition and subtraction or multiplication and division. Fact families are simply 3 numbers that are related and make a set of math facts. You can cut out fact family cards in the shape of a triangle or a hexagon to practice and play games.
5) Jump and Hop Math Facts
Draw a hopscotch board with sidewalk chalk and write facts inside each square. She must say the fact and the answer when hopping on each square. Alternatively, recite facts while doing something rhythmic such as jumping on a trampoline, jumping rope, hopping on one foot, clapping to a beat, or bouncing a ball.
6) Create Trading Cards
Invite your child to create math fact trading cards, specifically with themes and colors that suit him, family members, or an interest or hobby. Display or play games with the cards to practice the basic facts.
7) Math Toss
Toss a balloon or ball around the room with your child. As you toss, call out a math fact. The goal is for him to say the answer before catching it. If this is too challenging at first, modify the rule to be to call out the answer before passing it on.
8) Computers and Mobile Devices
To supplement practice, try some of the fun and engaging computer games and math apps for mobile devices that focus on fact practice. Many of them are free or very low cost. Work them into your weekly routine for short periods of time for extra practice. You child may also enjoy using Skype or Facetime with long-distance family members to practice facts.
9) Fact Flash Tag
For this activity you will need a chalkboard, whiteboard, or a blank wall with sticky notes and a flashlight. List the answers to several math facts on the board or on the sticky notes (either in rows or random order). We suggest choosing one operation to focus on, such as multiplication to limit frustration. Pull the shades or dim the lights and ask your child a math problem. His goal is to “flashlight-tag” the correct answer as quickly as possible.
10) Fact of the Day
If you student is having difficulty with just a few facts, choose one of them at a time and make it the “fact of the day.” Post the fact in a place where it will be seen often. Then ask your child frequently during the day to tell you the answer. (You can award a sticker or other small token for each time the answer is given quickly and correctly.) Another use of this is to make the fact of the day be the “password” for doing certain things or a substitute for someone’s name.
Math facts form the building blocks for higher-level math concepts such as adding and subtracting greater numbers, telling time, working with money, measurement, and multiple-step multiplication and division. These concepts are significantly easier for your child to learn once he has mastered his basic facts. Helping your child learn math facts at his own pace to automaticity will build his confidence and improve his ability to learn and retain higher order math skills.