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Math Fact Mastery: Teacher to Teacher Advice

Blog Posts, Math, Math Facts, Teacher Tips

Written by: Jess Dalrymple

When children fail to master basic math facts, they often struggle with multi-step, higher-level math concepts in later grades. 

So what are the best ways to help kids master their math facts? 

We asked hundreds of veteran teachers this very question in our Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers and Lucky 1st Grade Teachers Facebook groups. They had some incredible advice! 

Read on to find out what they shared.

teacher advice for math fact mastery

How to Introduce the “Math Facts” Concept

1.Demonstrate completing a timed math fact test in front of your students. They will be amazed that you can beat the timer! Then, you can tell them that when you were in school, you memorized your facts and now you’ve proven – you never forget them! Plus, share examples of how you use your math facts every day! 

2. Start by checking your students’ number sense. If number sense is low then math facts come second. In fact, teaching math facts through number sense building games is very effective! I love playing board games that involve counting, war, and simple grab and count (where I have a smaller size item and they quickly grab a handful and count what they grabbed). Getting them to count quickly without touching the items is the ultimate goal. I also love cardinality cards and any activity with subitizing. 

Note: Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize “how many” in a small set.

3. Focus on number talks. Kids will learn to decompose/ compose numbers and various other strategies and in the end it will help them with mental math beyond just the basic facts. I love doing number talks and the kids love them! I have seen so much growth in my kiddos as mathematicians.

number talk notes on a teacher board

Math Fact Timed Test Alternatives

  1. I don’t do any fluency worksheets or tests. When I’m teaching remedial math, the thing that works best is games. I use decks of cards, dominos, Jenga blocks, and PowerPoint zap games. It’s the only thing I’ve found that helps them improve. They get pretty fast!
timed test alternatives for math fact mastery
  1. Take home flashcards on colored paper and exchange the sets as students master them.
take home flashcards for math facts
  1. I use whole brain teaching gestures. For instance, when we play race to twenty we have to “brain it out” to determine the math sentence. For 5+5=10 we hold 5 fingers up and say five, then cross our arms to make a plus sign and say “plus” then hold five fingers up again and say “five”.  We hold one arm over another to look like an equal sign and say “equals” then hold up ten fingers and say 10. My kids now know so many more facts than they did before I implemented this. We use lots of movement/gestures in my SPED room.
whole brain teaching for math fact mastery
  1. You need to look into Dr. Nicki Newton! Fact fluency, guided math, math talks…she’s great. Here’s a demonstration of the “Birds and Worms” game for making ten! 
  1. Go to YouTube and search Math Fact songs! Kids will memorize their facts so quickly through music! 
  1. Sticky Math is easy to set up and start using especially since the kids all start on the same sheet. No cutting, prep, tracking on your behalf, no correcting…truly, I tried to make it is as practical as possible. I have found that kids prefer Sticky Math over other fact fluency building programs because it is less pressure, less stressful, and motivating because they are monitoring their own progress. They are also not competing with others from their class. The competition is then trying to beat themselves. 

Note: You can read more about Sticky Math here.

sticky math for practicing math facts
  1. For fun, give them Color by Number pages to practice. Or classic fluency games to practice like Bump It or Connect 4. The key is daily practice!
color by number pages for practicing math facts

Math Fact Apps and Digital Games

digital math toothy for math fact practice
  1. Xtra math is free and teaches a lesson, plus gives math fact timed tests. It takes the kids 5-10 minutes! But I either hide the timer or adjust it to six seconds per problem instead of the three seconds it defaults to because it goes FAST and sometimes stresses my students out. 
  1. Reflex math is awesome. It’s not free but it’s game based and gives great data. Speed drills can cause math anxiety in some kids. Game based practice is a good way to get practice in without the stress of drills and it’s easier to be inconspicuous about which students are struggling.
  1. My kids like the Digital Toothy games.
math toothy recording sheet

Grab your Digital Math Toothy Freebie right here!  

  1. Jet ski addition on ABCya!

5. I’ve been using quizizz.com. I assign a different “level” each week by searching for two math facts. There are 20 questions for each quiz.


Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the incredible teachers who shared math fact fluency ideas with us in the Lucky Second Grade Teachers and Lucky 1st Grade Teachers Facebook Groups!

Use the image below to save this post to your Pinterest board for future reference. 

teacher advice for math fact mastery activities in the classroom

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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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