Thursday, September 30, 2010

Should My Kids Memorize the Math Facts?

This page is devoted to stuff that I have found, articles, worksheets, etc to help get kids to memorize the math facts.
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Is memorizing the facts really important?
Is it really important to have children memorize their math facts? Won't they eventually learn them? Yes and Yes.
Yes, insha Allah, they will eventually learn them, but I have seen my children struggle with math problems not always because they didn't understand the work, but because they hadn't memorized their facts. Not having the facts memorized really does slow them down. And let's face it, if you have children who are already not enthusiastic about math, well, that just adds to the frustration (for you and them).
Are drills really necessary?
I'm sure for most of us, thinking about memorizing the math facts brings back memories of one and only one thing: the math drill worksheets-- the timed drills.  Is it necessary? Well, many people will have their opinions on this.  I have spent so much time and energy researching different methods of getting kids to memorize the facts, trying to find that one perfect, fun way: games, memorization techniques, and the drill to name a few.
I've spent so much time and energy that we never really tried any one thing and stuck with it.  Then I thought, the old fashioned methods of drill worked for me in school, so if it ain't broke, why fix it? I use drills in other work that I put together, so it really makes since to use something that I believe is tried and true.
So my position is, why not give the old fashioned drills a try? If you find that they aren't working (after a good old college try) then by all means, switch to something different.
 
Quick Tips
  • Only work on mastering one group of math facts at a time (e.g. just the x3s or the +4s)
  • Besides drill sheets, you can use computer games, file folder/matching games, or you can mix it up and use all of them. Schedule it out if possible.
  • Set a regular time each day to do the drills.
  • After facts have been memorized, be sure to review at least weekly, then monthly for some time.
Articles
What about Math Facts? by Ruth Beechick
“In this article, best selling author Dr. Ruth Beechick answers several common questions concerning teaching mathematics.”
Should Speed Tests Be Used to Teach Math Facts?
“The debate about using speed tests with children has been going on for many years. There are some who think the tests put too much pressure on children. But if children are to do well at higher level mathematics, they need to master the basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Speed tests can help most children do just that.”
Learning Times Tables Can Help Children Learn Goal Setting Skills
"Helping your child learn the times tables is one of the best ways to teach valuable goal setting skills while ensuring their success in math."

Math facts / drill - Many ideas! a forum thread I came across. Lots of ideas here. 
 
Drill Sheets/Timed Tests
I would suggest only using these for testing for mastery, not for everyday drill practice. Only work with one set at a time such as the +2s, or the 2s time tables (or even half of a set).
Addition
Subtraction
Multiplication
Division
 
Math Facts Practice Center
 
I came up with a little "math facts practice center" in hopes of making drill time a little more enjoyable.
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My Math Facts Practice Center
Each child gets their own file folder for his/her printables related to drill time. Most of the kids got a kick out of having their own folder.
So far, I have:
Cover
Progress Chart on the cover, they fill in the squares as they have mastered certain groups of facts.
InsideLeft side: Current drill sheet they are working on. Its kept in a plastic page protector that is stapled to the file folder.
Underneath the current drill sheet, there is a "cheat sheet." They can use this during the drill to locate the correct answer. Once they are ready for their final mastery test (or maybe a little before this) the cheat sheet gets taken out.
On the right side of the file folder is their time tracker. I write down their drill sheet completion times. They can see the numbers going down, insha Allah and know that they are improving.
Fun Progress Charts to Look Forward To
If you want to liven up charting progress, instead of a traditional chart, you can try something like making a wall display.  For example, use ice cream scoops for each group of facts (e.g. x3s). Put a scoop on the ice cream cone when a group is memorized. I got this idea from a forum thread I found Googling at My Father's World. I loved the idea, so I made up my own scoops and cone.
Download scoops and cone
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