The debate rages over whether or not students should “memorize” their facts. We should really be discussing automaticity or fluency, not memorization. Our instructional practices should also stress understanding of the concepts behind math facts, rather than rote memorization.
The fact is that students who are not fluent with the basic math facts are at a huge disadvantage with most other aspects of math. Consider a long division problem–students are required to use multiplication, division, and subtraction to complete a long division problem. Granted, most of us would use a calculator to perform the calculation, but that is not typically an option for our elementary students. Another example is equivalent fractions. The more fluent students are with multiplication and division facts, the easier it is for them to see the relationships between equivalent fractions.
How does fact fluency progress? In second grade, the goal is for students to be fluent with addition and subtraction facts. In third grade, multiplication facts are added along with the connection to related division facts. By fourth grade, students should be fluent in the basic facts for all four operations.
So how do we accomplish this? First, we need to find engaging and meaningful ways for students to practice. There are a wealth of online computer games and apps for practicing basic facts. Many are even free. If you are using a workshop approach to math instruction, consider making one of your rotations fact fluency practice. There are enough different games that students shouldn’t get tired of any one game. Just keep rotating the games.
Next, work to create a partnership with parents regarding fact fluency practice. Are you currently sending home fact practice worksheets? Consider changing your approach and instead provide parents with information about online games students can use at home. It’s a win-win proposition. I’ll bet no parent ever had to fight with a student to get them to play games on the computer, while the same probably can’t be said about drill-and-kill worksheets.
Today I’m providing a flyer you can send home with multiplication practice games. These particular games are computer-based, rather than for tablets. The PDF file contains links to all of the websites, so if you send it to parents electronically, they can access each game by clicking on the link.