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3 Simple Tips for Teaching Fact Fluency in Elementary

How fast can you do math? Let’s put you to the test! What is 2+2? 5+5? 2×3? If you can solve each of these equations quickly, you know your math facts! Students who have the ability to solve basic math facts accurately and efficiently typically find math to be far more enjoyable. However, it can take work to gain fact fluency. Today, I am going to give you three tips for teaching fact fluency in your classroom!

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Why Teach Fact Fluency

Before I jump into giving the tips for teaching fact fluency in your classroom, let’s explore why fact fluency is so important! Not only will be better at fact fluency make your students more excited about math; they will also gain higher-order problem solving skills.

In fact, through the fluency that comes with this skill, students are able to reserve some mental energy to focus on new math skills and problem-solving strategies. What does this mean? By teaching fact fluency in elementary, you’re helping your students grow their math brains into the future!

1: Create Fact Fluency with Mental Math Strategies.

My first tip for teaching fact fluency is to break out what we know about number sense. Number sense is all about mental math. When I was in school, I was on Number Sense team. This team is one of the reasons I can solve complex math problems quickly today.

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When using mental math strategies that I learned when preparing for competition, I can do things like multiply any two-digit number by 11 and know that I just need to add the two numbers together then put the sum of the two numbers between the two original numbers. Take for example 11×23. Start by adding 2+3; this equals 5. Then, put the five between the two numbers you just added together to get the answer to 11×23 which is 253. While this is more advanced mental math, there are some basic rules that we can teach students to understand the basic facts.

Some mental math strategies you can teach students include rules like:

  • The doubles rule
  • Adding one rule
  • Plus/minus 10 rule

These rules help your students add, subtract, multiply, and divide quickly without using up too much mental energy. However, that original (not mental math) process is important when your students are first learning the basic math skills.

2: Practice Makes Perfect

This tip for teaching fact fluency is all about consistency. Whether you’re shooting a free throw or practicing your fact fluency, you need to practice as much as possible!  When you think of practice, you might instantly think of flashcards or timed sheets for homework. However, the practice students get at home isn’t always helpful either because of time or knowledge restrictions. That’s why it’s important for you to make time to practice daily in your classroom.

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Because I was part of the Number Sense team and we went to competitions, I had to practice my mental math a ton. Now when I teach it, my math facts come back quickly because that area of my brain has been lifting that weight forever. What does that mean, it doesn’t have to work too hard to find answers.

According to Sam Stother, students should practice fact fluency ten to fifteen minutes per day using the facts they know to solve problems they have never seen before. This is a great way to teach fact fluency because this is what students will need to be able to do to conquer high-order math problems like algebra.

Because of the time needed to do these good brain practices, you can use them in variety of ways. You can have students practice fact fluency for ten to fifteen minutes as a bellringer, a type of morning work, a station in a math center, or as fast finisher activity.

3: Make Fact Fluency Fun!

When you think about learning fact fluency, it just sounds like a drag. However, fact fluency can be fun! You want to make sure when you are practicing mental math in your classroom, you are all having a blast. Make teaching fact fluency fun by using games and activities that students will beg to play!

Some of my favorite games to play when teaching fact fluency can be found in our math centers for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade. BUMP games are a great way to get that fact practice without a timed pencil and paper test. In addition, there’s no reason you can’t use the games as part of the assessment. When students play, they are demonstrating their knowledge of the standard. This is exactly what at typical test would do.

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Another great game is Super Speed Math. This fun game from Whole Brain Teaching helps your students partner up and practice math facts like addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

These games are both great to use especially once students get the hang of playing them. This strategy for teaching fact fluency can be used routinely in math centers, as an early finishers activity, or something to play if you end up in indoor recess. Sometimes, my students would ask to bring their math folders outside to recess too which was awesome!

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Memorizing math facts sounds incredibly boring. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. These tips for teaching fact fluency can be a lifesaver in your classroom! By using engaging activities from centers, games, etc., you’ll be able to grab your students’ attention and teach them important math facts that will help them be better problem solvers.

Until Next Time…

Keep Being Educational Rock Stars

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