Year after year, I had students who struggled with mastering their math facts. It made it difficult to confidently move on in teaching more complex mathematical concepts. In this post, I’m discussing how to build a toolbox of strategies to strengthen math fact fluency with flashcards.
In order to become fluent in math facts, students need daily, repetitious practice in a variety of ways. Here are some ideas to pair with a set of flashcards to provide support for students’ math fact needs.
1. Use manipulatives
When students are first starting to learn mathematical operations, they need concrete models. Students’ learning begins with visual, tangible, and kinesthetic experiences to establish basic understanding. Pairing math flashcards with manipulatives helps learners to visualize what is happening with the numbers. I think we often have this expectation that everything needs to be done quickly.
I mean, they are called “flash”-cards. But, there’s something to be said for starting out slow. Allow students to explore with cubes, two-sided chips, or base 10 blocks. Ask them to represent the problem without showing them first. It’s in these exploration opportunities that we can see students’ thinking and be better equipped to guide their learning.
2. Practice with the answers
This may sound counterintuitive but exposure to the correct responses and reading them aloud will help students familiarize themselves with math facts. It’s a great first step–especially when introducing new facts. Have students write the answer on the back and just begin by reading the fact with the answer. Then, encourage solving then checking. This will promote independence in practicing math facts and build confidence because students have support. It doesn’t feel so hard when you know you have access to the correct response. And it feels safer to challenge yourself because you have that safety net.
3. Match and Sort by sum (or difference, product ect.)
Now that students have practiced solving and are familiar with the answers, have them match cards by their sums, differences ect. Finding patterns will create mental connections which can ultimately be utilized as strategies. With addition and subtraction cards (or multiplication and division) together, have students match fact families. Becoming confident with fact families will assist in mastering facts.
4. Play Games
If you know me, you know this one is my favorite. Games increase engagement and motivation. I have put together 14 different flashcard games your students can play (PLUS free printable flashcards!). Click here to download.
Grab a stack of flashcards salt, sugar, sand, or sprinkles in a box or tray. Flip a flashcard over and write the answer with your finger. Physically writing an answer versus verbally relaying it will help with muscle memory. When you repeat a motor task often, actions can be performed faster and more accurately. This is one of my favorites for a center or as an option for homework because students beg for it!
Want even more tips for increasing math fact fluency? Check out these posts:
Mastering math facts begins with strengthening the concept first through concrete models. Daily practice is the key to success. And, it never hurts to make it fun with flashcards!