Fact Fluency is sooooooo important for kids to know, but it can sometimes be the most difficult part of math for kiddos. How do we get them to know their facts, with automaticity, without boring them? To me, knowing math facts is kind of like knowing sight words. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to do every math problem by just knowing your basic facts (just like you couldn’t read every book by just knowing your sight words), but knowing those basics helps you move through the problems more quickly, only having to stop for the problems (or words) that you don’t already know. It makes solving math problems (and reading) much less stressful! Just to be clear–I do NOT think that simply knowing the math facts without understanding them is important. They must understand the concepts behind them as well. I think that memorizing the facts at the same time as learning why those numbers go together in that way provides the right balance that kids need. This goes for addition/subtraction as well as multiplication/division.
Just to show you how important this really is, take a look at this YouTube video. It shows MRI scans of kids’ brains, specifically those who have fact fluency with automaticity, and those who do not. Wow! I am a visual learner and this really stood out to me!
Ok, we understand it is important, but what do we do about it? One of the most important associations to make has to do with “fact families” and how 3 numbers “go together.” The more the kids see this association, the more they begin to understand how and why those numbers are associated with each other. That can then help them with 4 facts at a time. I have found that fact families are even more important for subtraction and division than they are for addition and multiplication. Since they are the inverse and tend to be more difficult for students, finding these relationships can do wonders for their automaticity!
Obviously, we can go WAY more in depth with this topic (and I may do that in the future!), but I thought sticking with fact families with this one is enough. Kids can get kind of bored using the same practice figure for fact families all of the time, so I like to change it up as much as I can. Here are my Shamrock fact families for the month of March. I have one for addition/subtraction and one for multiplication/division.