 # How to Teach Math Facts

For our purposes, math facts are the basic number combinations for the different operators. from 0 + 0 to 10 + 10, from 0 - 0 up to 20 - 10, 0 x 0 up to 10 x 10 or 12 x 12, and 0 ÷ 0 up to 100 ÷ 10 or 144 ÷ 12.

Why is it important to memorize, to become fluent, or to achieve automaticity in the basic math facts? Let’s make an analogy to reading. In reading, phonics are the basics, and knowing what sounds the phonemes, or basic letter combinations make, is key. A student who is weak in them takes so long to get to the end of a sentence, that by the time they do, they’ve forgotten what the sentence was about in the first place. The same thing holds for math facts. If a student is not fluent in them, when a teacher is explaining a “math sentence,” if the student has to figure out the answer to each basic math fact, they will get so far behind that they will forget the purpose and steps of what they are doing. Math facts are the “phonics of math.” Except instead of only 44 phonemes from 26 letters, there are 121 facts for addition, another 121 for subtraction, etc. A total of 580 facts if you go up to 144 ÷ 12! No wonder it takes so much practice!

The most important thing when starting to memorize the basic math facts is that the student must fully understand the operator they are studying. Research shows that fluency practice will actually be harmful if they don’t understand the operator concept. For example, they should be able to show you addition and subtraction with blocks, and explain what is being represented.