Kevin Williams is the Program Consultant for K-8 Numeracy with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, and a senior tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.
Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about “returning to the basics” when it comes to math education. The fact of the matter is that our current Ontario Mathematics Curriculum for grades 1 to 8 does focus on the basic math facts – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There is no arguing that knowledge of the basic facts is important and supports children later on with more complex problem solving and larger number computations.
Mastery of the basic facts means that your child can give a quick response to a basic operation question. Now much like every math concept there is a developmental process with this, and the time it takes students to achieve mastery will vary. Another difference from when you and I learned our basic facts, which was most likely based on a lot of drill and memory work, is that today’s approach is based upon the research based approach of helping students develop reasoning strategies, and seeing relationships in numbers and operations. It’s strategy, then memory!
Here are some tips to help support your child's learning of basic math facts:
- Play board games with dice: In regular board games with multiple die have your kids calculate how many spaces to move adding the two (or more) values on the die. You can change this up by having your child subtract, multiply, etc.
- Play card games like “Higher Number”: Remove the face cards and put the rest of the cards face down in a pile. Each player takes two cards and adds the numbers. The player with the higher sum gets the other player’s cards. Keep going until the cards are gone. The player with the most cards is the winner. You can play the same game with subtraction - this time players subtract one card from another and the person with the lower difference (answer) gives up his or her cards. The player with the fewest cards at the end is the winner. You can play the same games with multiplication and division. (For more, see Doing Mathematics with Your Child: K to Grade 6)
- Use One More/Two More Than Strategy: Have your child focus on facts that have addends of 1 or 2.
For example: 7 + 1 = 8; 8 + 2 = 10
- Use Doubles Strategy: Kids will learn their math facts faster if you use the doubles strategy – in other words have them add two numbers of the same value.
For example: 1 + 1 ; 2 + 2 3 + 3; 4 + 4 etc…
♦ Doubles facts can help with multiplication, specifically with the two times table. For example, 4 + 4 is the same as 4 x 2, 8 + 8 is the same as 8 x2. For multiplication, the two times table can be a good place to start as it connects nicely with children knowing their doubles facts from addition.
- Use Making 5 / Making 10 Strategy: Kids can add and subtract easier if they create friendly numbers like 5 and 10. Help your child break down the numbers to create these friendly numbers.
For example: 4 + 3 is easier if you break down the 3,
moving 1 over to the 4 (4 + 1 = 5), and then add 5 + 2 = 7
- Multiplication Magic: For the Nine Times Table, teach your kids this cool trick. Using their hands, kids can find the answer quickly by putting down the finger that corresponds with the number that 9 is being multiplied by.
For example, for 4 x 9, the fourth finger on the left hand goes down,
what is to the left of that finger is the first number of the answer (3)
and what is to the right is the second number of the answer (6).
Therefore, 4 x 9 = 36!
- It’s Really Half the Work! Remind your child that since 4 x 3 is the same as 3 x 4 there are really only half the facts to know!