Teachers know that it’s crucial for students to have solid math foundations. Students who have mastered math facts experience more success with solving math problems efficiently and accurately. Student success builds math confidence.
It seems simple, but math fact fluency can be tricky, especially for students who are insecure about taking academic risks. That’s often the result of past failures and mistakes. There’s a misconception that mistakes are negative. However, errors are an inevitable part of the process. Success lies in the effort to learn from the errors.
Teachers: Elevate math foundations through skillful math fact building
Fear of failure is natural for students and adults. Students must understand that mistakes will happen on the journey to math fact fluency, and it’s okay! The idea is to learn from mistakes and build a growth mindset as they progress in math. When students understand that learning is about growth, they are more likely to persevere through math concepts that can be difficult, like math fact fluency.
What is math fact fluency? It’s the ability to quickly recall addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division math facts. Students learn strategies, such as fact families and memorization tricks, as they work to become fluent in math facts. Making a few mistakes along the way shows growth and willingness to keep trying. Students don't want to count on fingers or write hash marks on paper to solve math problems. Those tactics just bring frustration because they are slow and labor-intensive.
When students become math fact fluent, the world of higher-level math concepts becomes achievable. Solving even the most straightforward fraction problem requires multiple math facts. The smaller steps involved with problem-solving math concepts such as fractions aren’t overwhelming when the facts are easily recalled.
Students need to move through the struggle to become math fact fluent. Work with students to focus on effort. Show them that learning from mistakes is a normal part of the process to make it less intimidating. When students begin to feel confident, engagement and motivation also increase.
Essential math skills & math facts to cultivate student success
Students are more likely to try new things and participate in the classroom when confident. When students are active participants in class, they gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. That’s a win for everyone.
Once students know their math facts, they can try more challenging problems. When concepts are broken down into smaller, actionable chunks, students can tackle processes as they are ready. It’s easier to experiment when the task doesn’t seem so formidable. Little victories can be just enough to propel students forward, so it’s important to build fact fluency to move into more advanced math concepts.
Students also need to see the “why” with math. They wonder, often loudly in class, when they will ever use concepts in real life. Math fact fluency will be used in many relatable ways, like shopping, sports scores, or music. Discuss them with the class. Ask students to share their ideas about the importance of math fact fluency to daily life.
Build unshakable math confidence with these math fact activities & games
Confidence goes up when students get the correct answers, solve problems quickly, or ace tests! Students who feel confident are likelier to volunteer answers or share strategies. They’re motivated, and they know they can excel.
Take a look at some ideas for building confidence and math skills at the same time.
Use whiteboards and markers for students to practice facts. They could even work in pairs to give and receive problems.
Tap into artistic abilities by having students make illustrations of math facts.
During transition times or when students wait in line, ask them to skip count by specific numbers aloud or in their heads.
Clean desks and hands while practicing math facts with shaving cream and fingers!
Build representations of facts and fact families with blocks.
Work with number lines to find answers to problems.
After students practice math facts on paper, allow them to use calculators to check their answers.
Use individualized, game-based programs like ExploreLearning Reflex to help students gain math fact fluency. Since the program is fun and responds to the facts students know and still need to learn, Reflex helps struggling students master their facts quickly and effectively. Students can see how much they’re improving and can take charge of their learning.
Students who know their math facts can calculate problems more easily in their heads and answer with confidence. That confidence translates into the classroom, for homework assignments, and during testing situations. Any anxious attitudes about math quickly take a U-turn.