Being proficient at basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division is essential for math confidence and mastery. In this post, I’ll show you how to teach math facts in your homeschool in a way that will not only develop fluency but also help your kids develop a deeper understanding of numbers.
What are the math facts?
Generally speaking the math facts are:
- Single-digit addition from 0 + 1 up to 9 + 9 and their related subtraction problems (from 18 – 9 down to 1 – 0).
- Single-digit multiplication from 0 x 0 up to 9 x 9 and their related division problems (from 81 divided by 9 down to 0 divided by 1). Learning multiplication up to 12 x 12 or even 15 x 15 can be very useful, but learning up to 9 x 9 is a great start.
Six steps to mastering math facts
This approach can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. I’ll use the x2 and x4 facts to illustrate the steps.
1. Chunk the facts into groups that can be solved with the same mental strategy.
Without a clear mental strategy, math facts practice is an exercise in pure brute force memorization. Memorization has its place, but it sure makes for some tedious and long practice sessions when it comes to math facts.
Instead of tackling all the multiplication facts or all the addition facts at once, it’s far better to focus on mastering one small chunk at a time. In multiplication, usually each column of the times table can be solved using a similar strategy.
For example: To solve any of the x2 facts (like 8 x 2 or 4 x 2), you can just double the other number. So 8 x 2 is just 8 plus 8, or 16. Once you have the x2 facts down, you can simply double them again to figure out the x4 facts. So, since 8 x 2 is 16, 8 x 4 is just double 16, or 32.
2. Make sure your child has the skills needed to use the mental strategy.
Before beginning focused math fact practice, make sure your child understands the operation you’re focusing on and has the mental math skills needed to use the strategy. For example, to learn the x2 and x4 multiplication facts, your child needs to know that multiplication means repeated adding: 8 x 4 means 8 added to itself 4 times, or 4 added to itself 8 times. Your child also needs to have good mental addition skills for doubling numbers–one more reason why it’s so important not to rush math learning but to carefully build each operation step-by-step.
3. Use objects or pictures to demonstrate the mental strategy to ensure your child understands both how it works and why it works.
4. Practice using the mental strategy with flash cards and worksheets.
After your child has worked with pictures or objects to understand the strategy, have her practice solving these facts both orally with flash cards and written on paper. At this point, encourage your child to apply the strategy, and let her take as long as she needs to think through what she’s doing. Also, continue to focus on just this set of facts until the strategy is very well-practiced. (In this example, I’d have a child practice the x2 facts separately from the x4 facts to make sure that she can focus on using the strategy and not having to choose which strategy to use.)
Some good practice resources:
- Free, online worksheet generators. (I like this one, because you can make sure all of the problems include the number you want to practice).
- Simple, hand-written worksheet are just fine. Sometimes, writing your own proves to be quicker than a lot of internet searching!
- I love this high-quality set of flash cards from Amazon (Trend Enterprises Multiplication 0-12 Flash Cards (All Facts)), because it’s the only one I’ve found that includes all the facts up to 12. But making your own out of index cards works great, too!
- The Kumon Grade 3 Multiplication is great for this type of multiplication fact practice, because they provide six pages of targeted practice for each column in the multiplication table.
5. Mix these facts with other facts.
Once your child can apply the strategy easily to the facts you’re focusing on, mix up the practice. Combine the focus facts with other facts that your child knows. So, for example, once your child has learned the x2 and x4 facts separately, create a worksheet that combines these facts with any other multiplication facts that the child has learned. This will give her practice at choosing which strategy to use before solving.
6. Keep practicing until they’re automatic.
Have your child continue practicing, always keeping the mental strategy in mind and going back to it if he gets stuck or confused. With some practice, your child will no longer consciously use the mental strategy but instead “just know” what the answer is. The math facts will become automatic, and your child will be able to use them to solve math problems fluently and confidently.