What exactly is math fact fluency? It isn't about speed as many people beleve. NCTM President Linda M. Goja summed it up this way in a 2012 article, Fluency: Simply Fast and Accurate? I Think Not!
"Focusing on efficiency rather than speed means valuing students’ ability to use strategic thinking to carry out a computation without being hindered by many unnecessary or confusing steps in the solution process. Accuracy extends beyond just getting the correct answer. It involves considering the meaning of an operation, recording work carefully, and asking oneself whether the solution is reasonable."
Your weekly math routine should include strategy lessons as well as time to practice basic facts. If you choose to use timed drills, the time should be long enough for students to apply the strategies they're learning. (And I don't consider counting on your fingers as a strategy!) With practice, the facts will become more automatic as students apply the strategies more quickly.
Here are some strategies that worked well in my classroom:
1. Zero rule, 3 + 0 = 3 / 5 - 0 = 5 and 6 X 0 = 0 / 8 ÷ 0 = 0
2. Counting up or backwards, works well when adding or subtracting by 1 or 2
3. Ones' rule for multiplication and division, 6 X 1 = 6 / 9 ÷ 1 = 9
4. Fact Families, works well because students learn the relationship between addition/subtraction and multiplication/division.
5. Doubles, kids love to memorize these facts. 9 X 9 = 81 is always their favorite!
6. Nines, since nine is just one away from 10 there are some nifty tricks to add, subtract, multiply and divide by 9.
7. Numbers with zero in the ones place. Kids should quickly see that 7 + 10 = 17 and 14 - 10 = 4.
I know there are many more fact strategies and you probably have a few of your own favorites. I'd love to hear what works in your class. Please share your favorite strategies in the comments section below.
Games are a great way to get kids to practice the facts. This game, Catch Me if You Can, is super fun and can be used with any skill practice.
Students answer questions and then move around the board trying to "catch" the other player. Click on the pictures to download your free copy.
Need more ideas for how to teach strategies? Math Strategies to use everyday has ready to go signs and practice sheets to help your students gain fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, elapsed time and estimation. Click on the cover page to see this wonderful math packet in my TPT store.