Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Learning Math Facts

Site, Calculation, Multiplication, Macon If you teach middle school or high school, you have a few students who never got their multiplication and division facts down.  Unfortunately this makes it harder for them as they struggle to do well in their math class.

Unfortunately, the lack of having their math facts solidly entrenched means they will not do as well on standardized tests and it becomes harder as they take Algebra, Geometry, and other classes.

As they struggle, they develop the self-image of being dumb or unable to do the mathematics. Sometimes they develop behavior issues but they can learn, even if they are in high school.

There are three stages involved in learning math facts.  The first stage is for students to figure out the math concepts such as skip counting to figure out the answers.  There is evidence that students who struggle with mathematics have not mastered this step.

The second stage is developing strategies to remember basic facts.  If a student has developed his own strategies to remember facts, they do better but if a student has not, it is important the teacher teach the facts in a logical manner which emphases relationships makes it easier for students to learn.  One relationship is 2 x 6 has the same answer as 6 x 2.

The final stage is developing the ability to automatically give answers when asked a fact.  This means they do not hesitate when responding.  They know them all and don't have to think about it.  It is important to know these stages so when you work with older students you have a better idea where they are in their development.

Since I work with older students, I need to help many of them learn their math facts.  Fortunately, there are ways to help older students learn their facts without a lot of work on your or their part.

1.  Help them find out how many facts they already know cold.  Rather than facing all 100 or 144 facts, it will be much less.

2.  Do a few facts each week.  Only add more facts as they master the ones they already have.  Do not move on until they have the new facts cold.

3. Show how some of the facts are really the same such as 2 x 6 is the same as 6 x 2 so that means even fewer facts to know.

4.  Show the hand trick for the 9's which eliminates another set of facts.

5. It is important to combine already learned facts with the new facts so practice is cummlative.

6. Have students practice with a verbal component so they might say "Eight times nine is seventy two" so they have the whole both the problem and answer associated.  Since most students like music, look for musical videos on You Tube they can listen to as a way of helping them learn their facts better.

7.  Have regular practice schedules which include a method or immediate correction if they make a mistake.  The goal is to have them automatically respond with answers to each math fact.

8. Use a timed test occasionally to check their progress but do not do math minutes everyday.

I plan to use some of these suggestions when the new semester begins to help some of my students learn their multiplication tables.  Let me know what you think.