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  • Nicole Shields

Memorization isn't the Only Way: Helping Our Children Learn Math Facts

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Does your child know his/her math facts? The automatic, quick recall of math facts helps children as they operate with larger numbers. For 1st and 2nd graders, this is their addition and subtraction facts, sometimes called ‘snap’ facts. For 3rd and 4th graders, it is their multiplication (times tables) and division facts.


Most adults learned these facts by memorization and the likes of drills and flashcards. If only the drills worked for every child.


Another approach to the recall of math facts is to help unlock the idea of derived, or related facts. This approach utilizes children’s number sense and relational skills, which relies on more thinking than the automatic recall of math facts.


Automatic recall is not a bad thing, but as educators and parents we want to make sure we give our children opportunities to strengthen their mental math, numbers sense, and reasoning skills.


The Next Generation Learning Standards for Mathematical Practice emphasize reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure, and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.


What do the standards mean for parents trying to support our children with their math facts? We help our children see the relationships among the facts they already know. We teach them how to be savvy.


For a 1st or 2nd grader that may look like this: "You know 7+1= 8. In fact you always know the ‘plus ones.’ Did you know that plus two is just two more than that, so if you know 7+1 = 8 then 7+2 is one more than that?" We cheer them on for noticing the relationships and reasoning.


For the 3rd and 4th grader it looks like this: "You know that 5x5 = 25. Did you know that if you are stuck on 5x4 OR 5x6 you can add one more group of 5 or take away the group of 5 to get 5x6=30 OR 5x4 = 20?"


Unlocking these possibilities builds confidence and helps children who are hitting roadblocks on automatic fact recall.


Here is a link to an article by Mike Askew, with many more strategies on derived/related facts.


You’re doing a great job, parents and guardians! Math education has changed since we were kids - keep up the good work!



Until next time,


Nicole Shields



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