Math fact fluency can be a topic of conversation amongst a lot of elementary teachers because so many students struggle with their ability to recall their math facts with automaticity. Whether this is the case for your students or you want to fine tune your ability to teach your students their math facts with quick recall, you are in the right place. Let’s unpack the reasons why math fact fluency is essential for our students, as well as the best ways to help our students become math fact fluent.
There’s been so much research on math fact fluency and why students need to obtain it, but here’s a reminder, just in case: math fact fluency is the ability to recall math facts with automaticity (automatically, with little to no lag time). Math fact fluency is critical because without it, students won’t be able to proceed to the next math skill set, because math is such a cumulative-based subject.
Rather than focus on rote memorization, studies show that students who can grasp and be proficient with NUMBER SENSE first, have just as much potential success with math as those who simply memorize math facts. (As a reminder, number sense refers to understanding what numbers mean and how they relate to each other, and performing mental math with ease and fluidity.) Being able to apply number sense and math facts in many ways, (i.e. with manipulatives, board games, flash cards, printables) enables students to become fluent with math facts faster and with less stress. We’re all familiar with that heartbreaking look of frustration when a student can’t perform basic math operations or when they look around to see that they aren’t working as fast as their classmates.
Brain research has also shown that students who are being tested often have trouble recalling memorized math facts during the stress of testing. Those who have NUMBER SENSE, along with math fact fluency can overcome this anxiety because they don’t have to rely on their memory. This leads to those joyful ‘light bulb moment’ looks of confidence on our students’ faces once they’ve acquired math fact fluency!
Games Make Math Fact Fluency Fun
When kids think they are ‘just playing a game’ they will always be more engaged, so it’s a great tip for you and your student to make developing math fact fluency into a game. From a teacher’s viewpoint, it’s just as important that the game or activity is no-prep or low-prep for you, otherwise there’s little chance you’ll actually use it.
One of my core beliefs as a teacher is to have fun and enjoy each other. So, combining math facts and games is the best of both worlds for me—we get to have fun and enjoy our class time while we’re learning math. Dice, cards, board games, math bingo, even go fish are excellent ways of achieving math fact fluency in a game format. These can easily be set up in your math centers for an exciting and engaging math block.
Get Parents Involved
Another one of my dearly held core teacher beliefs is to develop relationships with families and students. What better way to open the door of communication to parents and build a positive relationship with them than to send home an activity that brings parents and their kids together—all while keeping them up to date with what’s being taught in your class. All it takes is a few moments of your precious planning time to make a little packet of parent-friendly instructions and games to send home. One of those instructions for parents can be a simple reminder that math fact fluency can be practiced while in the care, in the supermarket, or even on a walk – making that ‘off time’ productive, fun, and beneficial! Often, you can find tons of math fact games at the Dollar store or the Target Dollar Spot! Here are some more ideas that you might like from a previous post of mine!
I hope you find these tips to be helpful. Don’t forget to pin the image below so you can reference this post in the future!