5 Ways to Make Learning Math Facts Fun
When teaching math in elementary school, it is easy to see how memorizing math facts plays a huge role in the success of students in math. Finding fun and engaging activities to help memorize these facts can set a foundation for students to build on throughout their academic careers.
Math concepts build on each other. One of the foundational skills that students need to learn to be successful in math is simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Memorizing these basic skills will make almost all other math concepts easier throughout their schooling and life. It can be tedious and frustrating to memorize math facts. Check out Little Blossom's math curriculum at my TPT Store.
Read below to learn a few games and activities to make learning math facts more fun and engaging.
1. Play Skip-Counting Sparkle
Sparkle is a simple game that can be used to teach spelling words or skip counting (a foundational skill for memorizing multiplication and division math facts). Students sit in a circle. They pass an object around. Each student must say the next number when skip counting by (teacher picks what students are skip counting by). Teachers may give students a time limit, but wouldn’t need to when first teaching the math facts. When the students have skip counted 12 times, the next student says “SPARKLE” and then the student AFTER them is out. Students also get out if they say the wrong number or if they cannot think of the number quickly enough.
So for example one round for a class skip counting by 3’s would go like this: The first student would say 3, then pass the object to the next who would say 6, then the next would say 9….all the way until 36. The student after the one to say 36 would say “SPARKLE” and then the next student would be out.
I had the students who were out quickly sit down and write the numbers in sequence on their whiteboard. I offered a prize to the last student still in the game AND a student who had the numbers written the most times on their whiteboard. That way students who were out were still using their time to practice math facts AND were not causing behavior problems.
2. Play Math Facts War
When teaching this procedure teachers must decide what operation will be used in the game (addition or multiplication) Take a deck of cards. Remove all the royalty. Then have the students shuffle the cards and deal so each of the two students gets half the deck. Each student places a card down. The students then either add or multiply the numbers. The first student to say the right answer wins the cards. They continue just like a traditional game of war until one student has all the cards, that student is the winner. You can also check out card sets HERE that are created with the numbers 10, 11, and 12.
3. How many in 5 minutes flashcards
This is a way to make getting through a stack of flashcards more manageable for kids who are just starting to learn their facts. It can be daunting to try to get through the whole stack, so instead, set a time limit. Have the students work on flashcards for a certain amount of minutes. Then each day, count how many cards they got right and keep track each day. Hopefully slowly they can get more and more cards in that amount of time. You may even get to the point where they can complete the stack multiple times. I find that having quick time limits can help students be more focused during a task that can otherwise be less engaging.
As an educator, finding small adjustments to tasks, instead of reinventing the wheel can make a huge impact on student motivation with little extra effort (or money on resources) for the educator. Think about what strategies you are already using to teach math facts in class or at home. Are their small adjustments you can make to have that time be more meaningful or engaging for your students?
4. Free Online Math Games:
Students love computer time! In the classroom, using math games as a reward can be an awesome way to get kids excited about math fact practice. Check out lots of awesome free academic websites HERE or HERE. Many schools pay for other online resources, but there are really great free resources out there. This can be a great fast finisher or center if the teacher runs math interventions. It can also be a great way to incorporate DIFFERENTIATION during math time.
Some of my favorite free math websites include:
5. Skip Counting Songs:
All of us can relate to getting a song stuck in our head. Songs can be a very engaging way for kids to memorize math facts. Using skip counting videos as brain breaks can be an easy way to squeeze in extra practice while making the most of classroom learning time. Another great thing about teaching skip counting is it is a foundational skill for multiplication and division, but you can front-load these skip counting songs before even teaching multiplication and division. Then students have an even easier time understanding the concept when it is introduced.
You can go online and check out all sorts of songs, these are my favorite for multiplication/division facts 2 through 10. Each song is linked to the vidoe.
Read about new ways to teach math HERE!
Is learning math facts important?
Memorizing math facts is an important foundational skill that can help students throughout their educational careers and in life. There are some downfalls to too much focus on simple memorization. Students do need to have a good number sense and conceptual understanding in order to succeed in math.
There are also problems with test anxiety that can arise as students are demanded to recall math facts quickly. Using engaging and fun ways to practice facts can help students to practice without feeling anxiety. It is also important to apply math facts in math lessons to teach conceptual understanding and not simply memorizing algorithms.
Why do kids need to learn math facts?
Math facts are the foundation for more complex math strategies. When students can easily recall math facts, it becomes less taxing for them to complete higher level math. Knowing math facts will be useful and applicable not only in school, but in common everyday math that students will use throughout life.