If you’re reading this post, I’m assuming we’re on the same page, but just in case let me start by saying that basic math skills are so important.
Okay, I’ve gotta’ say it one more time.
Kids really, really, really need to know their multiplication facts.
Believe me. I taught middle school math for 4 years, and the kids who didn’t know their basic math facts were at a real disadvantage.
Take a problem like this one:
Think you can reduce it without knowing both 42 and 56 can be divided by 7? Not so much…
Anyhow, rant over. If you don’t think multiplication facts are important, leave a comment and maybe I’ll write a separate post about it late, but for now let’s get into the real point – how you can help your students master them in ways that are fun, engaging, and – most importantly – that work.
6 Ways to Help Your Students Master Basic Math Facts
- Say them out loud. When the whole class says multiplication tables out loud, students can’t help but learn them over time. This doesn’t have to be boring. Say them really fast, use different voices, repeat them at random times throughout the day. Mix it up and make it fun, but if you teach grades 3 – 5, say them as many times as you need to for them to learn them.
- Do speed drills. If you’re not familiar with speed drills, basically you give students a paper with a bunch of quick math facts on it and time them to see how long it takes. The goal is to get faster throughout the year. Students generally enjoy these, and you can even use them to sharpen skills in middle school. (You can find lots of great speed drill worksheets here.)
- Don’t let them use calculators for simple problems. If you let students always use calculators, they’re going to become dependent on them. So make it standard practice to do problems by hand unless they involve large numbers. You might get some pushback at first, but they’ll get used to it pretty quickly & you’ll start seeing their skills improve.
- Use rapid calculations. A fun way to review basic math facts is with rapid calculations. You give a stream of calculations that the students must complete in their heads. (For example, you say out loud “6 plus 7 minus 2 times 5 plus 1 divided by 7 equals” and the students reply with – do you know? – 8!) I recently put together a set of these. You can get a sample 4-pack of cards for free here or buy the whole set of 40 cards here.
- Use flash cards (creatively). Flash cards are an awesome way to drill math facts, but standing in front of the class and flipping through is just one way to use them. Allow students to use them in centers (they love playing teacher). Clip them on the whiteboard and have students write the answers underneath. Play around the world. Have a contest. The possibilities are endless.
- Have students quiz each other. Have students quiz each other on the multiplication facts. Give each student a sheet with the multiplication tables. Then have them quiz the person next to them. Just doing this for 1 or 2 minutes a day makes a huge difference.
There are so many more ways to review math facts, but that really is the key, isn’t it – just keep reviewing them. Because, as we all know, repetition is the key to learning.
Did you get your free 4-pack of rapid calculation cards? Click here to grab them now.
How else do you practice math facts in your classroom?