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A Review of Math Fact Curriculum

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Most school programs attempt to teach children to memorize math facts during the elementary school years. Once the child has learned the basic concepts of addition and subtraction, the focus moves to memorization. Later, the same process is repeated when multiplication and division are introduced. Learning math facts will help children become more proficient in mental math (completing calculations in their head) processes. In addition, memorized math facts make more complex math calculations less cumbersome. There are many ways to go about memorizing math facts. The following review includes traditional methods as well as modern math fact curriculum options.

Traditional Math Fact Methods

Flash Cards

One of the most popular ways to memorize math facts is by practicing with flash cards.

         

Method:

Organize the cards into smaller groups. Review the fact group until it is memorized. For fluency, the answer should be stated within a few seconds of presenting the card. You will want to avoid calculating out the answer with each presentation. Periodically review mastered facts to ensure the information stays in long-term memory.

Benefits:

You can change the order to randomize the presentation of the facts simply by shuffling the cards. The cards can be grouped in any way that works for the learner. For example, mastered cards can be grouped together for periodic review. Newly mastered facts can be grouped together for more frequent review. Cards that are being currently worked on can be grouped for daily review. The remaining cards (those not covered yet) can be kept together and pulled from when the learner is ready for additional facts.

Flash cards are also useful for assessing progress with other math fact programs. The oral component of flash cards will allow a child to learn the information without having to write. This may be very beneficial for children who easily tire from fine motor tasks.

Limitations:

Flash card practice may not work with all children. Although studying with flash cards is a method that works for many people, they do not work for me.

Recommendation:

Flash cards relatively inexpensive. You can even make your own on paper or index cards. If a child is not making progress over the course of a couple weeks with a flash card method, it is time to try something else.

Music

A variety of DVDs and CDs are available to teach the math facts as songs.


 Method:

Listen to the songs. You may want to focus on one song at a time. Once the information is learned, move onto another fact song.

Benefits:

Some children have an easier time remembering the facts if they are in a song format.

Limitations:

Songs may not work for all children. If the child has memorized the facts in the song, they may need to sing through the entire song to remember the fact they are trying to retrieve from memory. This would not be an efficient recall process.

Recommendation:

If a child is inclined to learn information in a song format, this method is worth a try. If you do decide to adopt the music format, I would recommend using it as a supplement. Use another method to teach and practice the facts and use the songs for additional exposure. I do like and use Multiplication Unplugged for teaching skip counting. Skip counting is a pre-requisite skill for learning the concept of multiplication. Counting by 5s is necessary for learning to read an analog clock. Skip counting can also be used to calculate the answers to multiplication and division problems prior to memorizing the multiplication facts.

Timed Drills

 

Method:

A worksheet is presented and a child is asked to complete the set of facts within a specified time. Once the child can complete the activity quickly and accurately, the child is given a new worksheet to work on.

Benefits:

Timed worksheets will provide regular practice to build fact fluency. You can graph the results to show progress over time with each set.

Limitations:
  • As the worksheets are printed, students may memorize the order of answer rather than the answer to each fact.
  • Some students become very stressed by timed activities. This can be overcome by keeping the timed information to yourself.
  • Some students may also feel overwhelmed by the number of problems on each page.
  • Answering the problems requires a lot of writing. This limitation can be overcome by 1) allowing the student to dictate the answer to a scribe, or 2) to complete the practice sheet orally.
Recommendation:

If the student continues to calculate the answer to each problem rather than remembering the answer, I would recommend stopping the review worksheets. Instead, try a method that uses visual memory or games to build fluency.

9’s Down Math Facts by Math on the Level

Similar to the previously mentioned timed fact practice sheets, the 9’s Down method also uses worksheets to build fact fluency. The main difference is the way the math facts are presented and organized. The first worksheets start with only a few facts in the 9’s, and then gradually add in more and more with each worksheet. Over time, all of the math facts will be covered while providing the most practice with the harder facts.

9's down math facts: subtraction 9's down math facts: addition 9's down math facts: division 9's down math facts: multiplication

Method:

A worksheet is presented and a child is asked to complete the set of facts within a specified time frame. Once the child can complete the activity quickly and accurately (suggested rates are included in the program), the child will begin practicing additional facts with the next worksheet in the series.

Benefits:

The organization of this fact program will allow students to get the most practice with the more difficult fact families. The sequence taught is logical and adds in more facts gradually.

Limitations:

Like the other timed math practice sheets, some children will feel very stressed with timed requirements. If this is a challenge, either keep the information to yourself or eliminate the time requirements.

Some children will be overwhelmed by the number of problems on the page.

Recommendation:

I recommend this program for daily math fact practice using math adaptations as needed. I currently use the 9’s down multiplication practice program, but cut the worksheets into 2-3 rows of problems for daily practice.

Math Fact Curriculum

Mastering Facts Series by Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni

Method:

Each lesson begins with reading through a picture book. The book is discussed as it applies to the fact set. After the discussion the lesson moves on to a practice activity.

Benefits:

This math fact curriculum presents the information for each fact set in an organized way. The lesson attempts to tie in prior knowledge of the students prior to working on the math facts.

Limitations:

I bought these books with high hopes. Each fact set lesson lists a book that should be read to the child. Although I had some of the picture books already, I ended up having to spend a lot of money on new and used books to teach the program. I did check our local library; however, most of the books listed were not available there.

Recommendation:

I do not recommend these books for a few reasons. First, I think that Kate Snow’s fact books (see review below) are a better purchase. The additional cost for the required literature connection can be substantial. Lastly, although I felt like my children had some progress with this program, it really was minimal progress. The included activities were not as fun as those included in Kate Snow’s books.

Addition and Times Tables the Fun Way by Judi Liautaud & Memorize in Minutes by Alan Walker

These books attempt to teach children to memorize the math facts by turning each fact into a story. Although there are slight differences between the way the two authors present the facts, I am reviewing these two math fact curriculum programs together due to the similar story-based/visual-association format.

Method:

Each number is given a cooresponding visual representation. First the student is taught to remember the visual image that goes with the number. For example, in Liautaud’s books, the number 3 is to be associated with a bee. In Walker’s book, 3 is associated with a tree. Once the associations have been memorized, a story is presented to help the child remember each fact.

Benefits:

The method used in these books utilizes visual memory to teach the math facts. Children who are good at remembering pictures may benefit from learning the facts in this way.

Limitations:
  • Each fact has its own story, so there is a lot of information for the children to remember.
  • Children may rely on the visual cue to get the answer rather than the fact problem.
  • These books does not include a procedure to fade out the visual cue.
Recommendation:

Although this method may work with some children, I think there are better math fact curriculum options. This book did not work for my child. I even tried creating a series of my own fact cards that faded out the visual cues. It just did not work. The images seemed like they were actually blocking fluent recall.

Facts that Stick by Kate Snow

The facts that Stick books teach a set of math facts and then provide practice in a game format.

Method:

For each fact set, a child is taught the concepts and given a strategy for remembering the information. A fun practice game is described for daily practice. Review worksheets are also included.

Benefits:

Games provide a fun way to practice the facts. The activities do not feel like school work and may be intrinsically motivating for many children. Rather than calculating answers by counting, students are encouraged to remember what the answers look like using a 10-frame.

The games require a few inexpensive additional materials. A set of face cards and a die are all that are needed.

 

 

 

Limitations:

The books claim that children will be able to learn their math facts over the course of 6 weeks. This may not be true for all children. Children who struggle to learn math facts may take longer to learn the material.

Recommendation:

I recommend this math fact curriculum for teaching and practicing math facts.

I am currently using the addition book with one of my children. We are taking much longer to go through each fact family; however, I am satisfied with our progress. Rather than using the 10-frame method, we are using an abacus. This abacus just works better for my child while still providing a way to visualize the solution.

 Times Tales

Times tales is a mnemonic-based visual program that teaches the upper multiplication facts.

screen shot from the times tales website

Method:

Children watch the fact stories played out in video-based format. The answer to each fact uses a memory cue that will allow the child to quickly remember the correct answer. Each segment is reviewed for mastery before moving on to a new section. The videos use a time-delay procedure for mastering the fact sets presented. Practice worksheets are also included.

Benefits:

The video based format ensures that the facts are presented in the intended way. The stories presented serve as triggers for remembering the correct fact answers.

Limitations:

As with any method, this math fact curriculum may not work for all children. The visual format requires the ability to focus on the screen. If a child cannot pay attention to the movie, he will not benefit from this format. The Times Tale company offers a free download to try their method with four math facts. Downloading the free facts will allow you to get a good feel for whether or not this method will work with your child.

Recommendation:

I highly recommend the Times Tales math fact curriculum. As an adult who has struggled to learn math facts my whole life, this is the only program that worked for me. This program, in combination with regular regular review and practice, will help most children learn their upper multiplication facts. Click on the following link to try the free math facts to see if this program will work for your child risk-free:  Memory Trigger – Math Term Memorization Made Easy!

Conclusions on Math Fact Curriculum

There are a variety of ways to go about building math fact fluency. Flash cards and timed tests are the traditional go-to methods. Other math fact curriculum options may work better for children who struggle to learn math facts. For addition and subtraction, I recommend Kate Snow’s Facts That Stick books. For multiplication, I would recommend learning to skip count with Multiplication Unplugged. Daily practice is important for moving math facts into long term memory. I like the organization of the 9’s down series. The best program for learning the more difficult multiplication facts is Times Tales.

If a child is struggling to learn math facts, consider teaching them an alternative way to efficiently get the correct answer. Click here for a description of strategies that can be used for this purpose.

 

 

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