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Include Daily Math Facts Practice

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Mathematics Elementary School Strategy

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Working Memory Attention Verbal Memory Abstract Reasoning Processing Speed Visual Memory

Include Daily Math Facts Practice

When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you when you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings.
— W. E. B. du Bois

While you do not want to overemphasize the importance of speed, the ultimate objective is for students to know their math facts well enough that they don't need to think about them--like recognizing "the" or "with" when reading--so they have the mental energy for more complex tasks.

How To Apply It!

  1. A commonly accepted measure of automaticity is 60 correct facts per minutes, or 1 fact per second. However, given younger children might not have the motor skills to write that quickly, 40 correct facts per minute might be a more reasonable goal. Learn more about how to differentiate math practice and goals.
  2. Keep in mind that the emphasis should not be on speed for the sake of being fast. Rather it is to assure that the student knows his facts so well that he doesn't need to calculate or think about the answer.
  3. Motivate students by helping them understand why they need to know them. Just as knowing sight words makes reading easier, mastering math facts enables you to more easily solve word problems, algebraic equations, or other higher level math concepts.
  4. Repeated daily practice is key. To keep students engaged, adults might want to mix up the type of practice with digital and non-digital options. There is definitely no "one size fits all" math app, so here are some considerations in making your choice. Consider picking several apps to mix up the practice.
  5. a) Many apps have timers and will give negative feedback for wrong answers. This is fine for many students but others can get quickly discouraged.
  6. b) Choose an app that provides the student with feedback on which problems they got incorrect so they know what they need to learn. Similarly, the app ideally will provide an adult summary by fact so you know which facts will require more focused practice, perhaps with flashcards or worksheets.
  7. c) There are apps with every theme imaginable. Find one that your student truly likes.
  8. d) Know your student. Some students will be driven by sheer competition to beat their own high score or beat peers. For others, this might be discouraging.
  9. e) Students need to pull facts from memory, not just recognize the right answer. As your student grows more confident, be sure to select apps that require typing in the answer rather than multiple choice.
  10. f) Click here for a broad variety of math practice options.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

In teaching elementary mathematics, some schools have shifted from focusing on rote memorization of single-digit arithmetic to emphasizing deeper conceptual understanding of the underlying processes. However, research shows that students still need to have fluency with their basic number facts if they are to be successful with higher level mathematics. Fluency and automaticity are particularly important for students with weaker abstract reasoning and working memory skills.