For so long I have been trying to get Math Facts into my son’s head. He could solve them if I gave him a while to figure them out but we wanted more from our little Mathematicians. Our goal is for our children to know their facts automatically – with accuracy, confidence and no hesitation.
On our journey we have tried a plethora of different number fact products – some of which were useful on the journey and others which made very little impact on my particular learners.
Not all that long again I threw up my hands and all but admitted defeat. I gave up the fancy programs and reverted to a simple daily approach.
Using concepts from Math It I made basic number fact flash cards and separated them into different sets
nines facts – 9+7, 9+5, 9+8, 9+4, 9+6 and 9+3
eights facts – 8+7, 8+5, 8+4, 8+6, and 8+3
double facts – 3+3, 4+4, 5+5, 6+6, 7+7, 8+8, 9+9 and 10+10
double (the smaller number) plus one/near doubles – 4+3, 5+4, 6+5 and 7+6 (eights and nines are not included as a different strategy is easier for them).
count on zeros, count on ones and count on twos eg 3+1, 4+1, 5+1 and 3+2, 4+2, 5+2 (I didn’t need to make these cards as they are one strategy that does stick but for younger students I would have included them as our first strategies.)
and finally the leftovers 5+3, 6+3, 6+4, 7+3, 7+4 and 7+5
I colour coded my cards and kept each set in a different ziplock bag.
As we had been recently working on doubles I started our practise with the doubles. My concept was to work daily on mastery of the facts. All I did was lay out the cards on the table and have my children orally answer just the double facts that we were working with. We did this for several minutes until their answering speed improved a little. At the beginning of the early sessions they were slow as they worked out the answers but after a few minutes and several sessions of answering the same questions they got a little faster and more confident.
I did this same thing every day until their doubles seemed firmly secure in their noggins. Then we added another bag of facts. We moved onto the nines. (I call the nines “vacuum cleaner problems” and use the story that the nines always want to be tens so they vacuum/suck up a one from the other number helping reveal the answer eg. 9+7 would become 10+6. Eights of course are SUPER vacuum cleaners and remove 2 to make their ten). Now we worked, first on reviewing our doubles and then on working through the same procedure for our new bag of facts, the nines.
Over time I discovered that my youngest’s speed of recall was faster when I read the facts to him and for my eldest it was more productive if he lay the cards on the bench and looked at each as he worked. So I personalised my approach to each boy.
We followed this procedure every single day. It is something so simple and so quick that even on busy days we always feel that we had time for Math Facts and in a real pinch I can call out the facts orally while hanging clothes on the line or driving somewhere.
At present we have mastered doubles, nines, eights and are working on near doubles. I never thought I’d get to say this but their Math facts are actually moving closer to automatic recall!!
So this is what I’ve learned about Number Fact mastery (which I’m beginning to suspect may also be valuable advice in other subject areas):
– Keep the approach simple and clear
– Break the task into manageable bite sized pieces
– Be consistent and practise daily
– Don’t add anything new until the previous bite sized chunk has been mastered
– Continue to review the mastered areas
My poor children. It seems that they are doomed to be my “draft” learners. By the time they are finished their schooling I might actually know a few things that are useful for teaching…maybe.