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### 5 Minutes a Day to Math Fact Fluency

After many years in the primary classroom, I've finally developed a sure proof system for math fact fluency.

Math fact fluency is all about memorization.

Before this can happen, the children need to have a basic understanding of what it means. A child can't memorize 5+2=7 Unless they understand they are joining a set of 5 items to a set of 2 items and will end up with 7 items. Once they have that understanding, they can start the memorization process. Once the facts are fluent, the related math concepts will flow far more easily!

Yes, rote memorization is NOT the most fun part of learning.

Yes, it takes work, and some students really struggle, but we know they're all different and can help them be successful at their own levels.

## Here are some suggestions for math fact fluency!

There are 200 Addition and Subtraction facts to be memorized. There are also 200 Multiplication and Division facts to be memorized. Children can be easily overwhelmed if given that many facts all at once!

Give them a pattern of facts to learn at a time. Research tells us children learn best by fact families.

Each child should have a group of facts they are working on, but also a group of facts they know, and don't want to forget! Make sure they spend time reviewing the old facts as well as learning the new bunch!

Be right up front with the students. Talk about what memorization is, and how they need to do the work to memorize the facts. Share the differences between automaticity and "counting on fingers," or "figuring it out in your head." (I don't believe counting on fingers or mental math to be bad, as they are part of the process! However, we hope to get the kiddos to full automaticity eventually!)

Talk to them about what has helped you when you had to memorize something, and encourage them to share their own memorization experiences. We're all different, but sharing ideas will help everyone! (Isn't that our goal? Teaching children to help each other so we are all successful?)

Or as I call it in my classroom, "out soft." That means, loud enough to hear yourself, but not loud enough to disturb your classmates. Verbalizing the whole equation, not just the answer, makes an enormous difference in the learning process!

Practice with friends Children are social. Practicing with a classmate makes practice more fun. Some tend to be a little competitive: let that work for them, as long as everyone is happy about it. Plus, children learn little tricks from each other. (Yes, I've learned a lot of little tricks from listening to my students!)

Timed tests can be motivating for many, but there are others that "choke" with that stress. You know your students better than anyone. I give timed tests once a week, but if I see any signs of stress, I'll pull that child aside and work with them. I make it fun, but when one-on-one, I can clearly see if a child is counting on fingers, pausing to figure it out in their head, or truly has the facts memorized. No matter what, I make sure it is a positive experience with lots of praise for the things the child is doing correctly!

When I feel a child is ready to move to the next level, before school starts, I'll put the next level of practice cards on their desk, to be cut out and sorted. You'd better believe there are shreiks of delight when they are found! I'm sure you know plenty of other ways to celebrate their successes as well!

I spend time at the beginning of the school year setting routines. There are several ways the facts can be practiced: everyone practice on their own, practicing as part of math rotations, small group games, practicing on computers or devices, practicing with a teacher or adult helper, and so on! I usually teach the routines using "easy facts" before we get to the tougher ones. Once the routines are set, they're good to go!

Once a student has proved mastery of all the levels, of addition and subtraction, I might have that child review all the levels again. Another option is to move onto multiplication and division. Although mastery of these facts isn't necessary for first or second graders, those students who master addition and subtraction quickly are usually quite ready for the upper levels. (Just make sure they understand what it all means!)

Another option: have them work with others. Perhaps it's because my dad was a football coach, but I've always felt it's our job to look out for the whole "team," and that concept is well instilled in my students. We have not succeeded until we have all succeeded!

These are my foolproof systems for both levels. I swear by these materials! I've used them for years and found them to be successful (and loved) by both students and teachers.

Fact Fluency System for Addition and Subtraction: The Bundle

## Multiplication and Division Facts:

Fact Fluency System for Multiplication and Division: The Bundle

## or get them both in this bundle:

Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One +1 Fact Families

Math Fact Fluency Practice Activities and Assessments: Level One X1 Fact Families

## It's called "Party Talk!"

I learned about this activity when I was working on my Master's program in Creative Arts in Learning. This particular class was a music class. Our assignment was to research a composer.

I don't want to give away my age but this music assignment was when the internet was virtually unknown, and at the time, it was hard to find information about a composer that was still alive... at the time. We were given the assignment to learn about the composer, but we didn't know what we were going to do with that information until we came to class that day.

Since I was working on a production of Company at the time, I chose to research Stephen Sondheim. (Yes, musical theatre is my thing. I played the part of April in this production!)

This isn't my production, but this "butterfly monologue" was one of my favorite scenes I've ever performed.

Again, this isn't me, but I did sing this song in the production. (You may recognize the man playing Bobby!)

We showed up the day the research was due, and had no idea what to expect! The instructor told us we were going to have a "cocktail party" and gave us "Hello My Name is..." tags.

Well, we put the names of our composers on our tags and started chatting with others at the "cocktail party."  I chatted with Beethoven, Vivialdi, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Mozart, and several others. What a great way to share the information we learned!

Fast forward many years... although most of my teaching has been in the primary grades, I did spend a couple of years in fifth grade. (Luckily I had some awesome colleagues to help me!) While teaching the Revolutionary War, we were due for a research project, and I remembered this activity.

So we had a "Boston Tea Party." (I did make it clear we were going to drink tea rather than throw it in the harbor.) A parent volunteer made some awesome colonial themed nametags, we pulled of the "fine china" and they had tea (with plenty of sugar) while chatting with other colonial heroes. They used "cheat sheets, of course, and I gave them typical questions to ask each other. We modeled a few rounds on the days leading up to the event so they'd know what to expect. I had extra adults in the room that day to make sure they stayed on task and interacted with lots of classmates, not just their closest buddies. (Yes, children need a lot more guidance than adults, don't they?)

With adults, it's ok to call it a "cocktail party," but with the little ones, I prefer to call it "party talk."

## Can you imagine your own precious little ones doing this?

As you know, children love to get dressed up and pretend to be someone (or something) else! Why not put that excitement into learning? Pretty much anything that can be researched can be presented in this way: biographies, careers, landforms, or even life cycles!

They really do enjoy dressing up and pretending to be someone else... it's like getting a second Halloween! (without the candy, of course!)

This is one of those activities that they'll always remember! Years from now, they'll remember which classmates were which characters. The brain remembers things like that... the brain is social, and tends to remember when emotions are strong. And yes, emotions run strong with a fun project like this!

If you study Life Cycles, these are great for beginning researchers: The Life Cycle Collection

If you think about it, you can do party talk at just about any time! They could even have their own name on their nametags, and just talk about themselves! (Great beginning of the year activity!)

## Did you know... there are big differences that happen in the brain while writing as opposed to typing on a keyboard?

There have been studies on what goes on in the brain while writing by hand as opposed to typing, and the differences are amazing!

Writing something down actually helps you remember it! Students who take notes by hand are more likely to remember what they're learning as opposed to typing notes. The actual formation of letters activates parts of the brain that typing just doesn't activate!

Writing becomes more holistic when writing by hand. It involves several different movements in the hands, touching different parts of the brain, rather than just pressing a button on a keyboard.

Most people can type almost as fast as they can talk. That means if they're taking notes, they'll be typing pretty much everything they hear. If they're taking notes by hand, they can't write down everything, so they need to think about what the key information is, and how to quickly paraphrase what they're hearing. This causes more thinking, engaging the brain rather than just typing whatever they hear!

Seriously, the physical act of writing activates parts of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for expressive language and for managing higher level executive functions. It should be an active part of the students' day, shouldn't it?

Various studies have shown that children who learn to write by hand also learn to read faster and show more creativity. Writing by hand not only increases focus, but encourages writers to use more interesting vocabulary and write more adventurous stories.

This doesn't mean give up all the electronics! They clearly have their place in the classroom and in the workplace!

Despite the advantages of writing by hand, working on a keyboard is also a skill that needs to be developed and strengthened. They still need to be able to type efficiently and compose at the computer. It's not going away!

This skill won't go away either. Plus, the kiddos absolutely LOVE learning cursive writing! Even though many districts are phasing out instruction in cursive, they can learn it on their own using this self-directed collection:

16 Powerful Benefits of Writing by Hand
Handwritten Notes or Laptop Notes: A Skeptic Converted?

Plus here's one of my own that might interest you!
7 Benefits of Teaching Handwriting

The brain is a fascinating thing, isn't it?

## In my experience, kids need to move! That shouldn't keep them from learning, in fact, moving is a great way to enhance learning!

As many of my readers know, I have studied how the brain learns and using research on the brain to design resources to help children learn. (For more information, check out these posts:)

Some of the common threads in these posts include movement, integrating the arts, working with others, and making it fun. Plus, we all know from developmental studies that it's important for them to move!

(See this post: Is Digital Learning in the Best Interest of Children?)

It just so happens that I have a series of resources that address these needs while promoting learning at the same time! There are 15 resources in this series (so far) and they all have the exact same format:
• an informative text about an interesting science or social studies topic (Perfect for close reads and guided reading!)
• 10 questions about the text
• 4 sketching tasks to go along with the text
• 6 brain breaks related to the text
Once they catch onto the format, less time is wasted on teaching them how to use the tool, and they become quite independent in their learning with this tool!

## There are many different ways to use these resources! It can be differentiated for different learning levels, different organizational needs, as well as different social needs.

I always start off with whole group instruction! Everyone gets a copy of the text with the answer sheet, and we read through the text together. I go through some of the questions and show the students how to go back to the text to find the answers. (They LOVE using highlighters on this!)
We do all the brain breaks together, and discuss the sketching tasks.

Once they "get" how the whole thing works, we can play a game of Scoot. (See directions here: Active Students? Try Scoot!)
Some of my more challenged readers usually need more guidance. I'll bring copies of the text to some of my reading groups. We read through the text together, discussing vocabulary and talking about what we've learned. I'll let the group take turns reading the different task cards. We discuss what the answer might be, and go back to the text to find where we found the answer. (Again, the highlighters!)

Once the small group has gone through the whole process, (and yes, of course we all do the brain breaks together!) they're ready to do the whole process independently! (These make great centers!)

Yes, they can re-read the same text and answer the same questions all over again! Why? Because there's a lot of information in those texts, and even though they've answered the questions already, that doesn't mean they remember all the information! A second (or even third) time through, especially after a passage of time, is ideal! Not only are they practicing important skills (reading for information) but they are learning interesting information!

These sets make great centers! I often assign centers to be done in pairs. Why? Because of those great conversations! Talking about the text internalizes what they're learning. (More brain research!) Plus, they learn from each other through these rich conversations. Some may share information about the topic that's not even in the text! (More learning, yippee!)

Another reason to let partners use these activities? Because some children need a stronger reader to help them out. This can be a delicate situation, since we need to be sensitive about our lower readers, but you know your kids! Make smart choices for partners who will support each other without insulting each others' abilities!
These are also perfect for your fast finishers to do independently during centers time!  Again, each set can be used more than once... hopefully, they'll remember more information each time!
This one is easy! Anytime! I find they're perfect as centers during those last couple months of the year when their skills are strong and they've developed some independence.
They're also great for the beginning of the school year when you're teaching procedures!
Plus, if you're doing a unit related to one of these topics, these are perfect!

If you're interested in these, check out this link: