Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Math Facts Matter

This past year was one my most challenging years as a teacher thus far; it was also one of the strongest growth opportunities I have had as an educator.  I taught a self-contained class for the first time.  I have previously always had several classes of students and focused on 1 or 2 subjects. This year my class was made up of students in grades 4 and 5, who spanned a variety of age levels and ability levels.

At the beginning of the year, Math was my biggest challenge. Our school uses a lot of technology, so that students have opportunities to work at different paces and levels. In Math, I had Gifted students who were extremely advanced and other students who were not ready for 4th grade Math because they still struggled with 2nd and 3rd grade concepts. We spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time working on building fluency at basic, foundational Math concepts.  From working with many students even in Middle School Math, I have found that for most students who struggle with Math it comes down to not being able to fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  Often when students struggle with fractions or Algebra, it comes down to these concepts.

During the last week of the school year, I was contacted by a publisher to review an ebook.  Compass Publishing asked me to review Laura Candler's book Mastering Math Facts.

I was thrilled with the opportunity.  On a side note, I love Laura Candler!  I discovered her website when I first found out I had to teach using Reading and Writing Workshop at another school.  Her website became my foundation for teaching in a workshop model.  I discovered the world of education blogs through her email Newsletter.  Without Laura Candler, I probably never would have started a teaching blog.

Anyway, this next year we are also adding a Grades 2/3 class.  I was excited to review Laura's book for ideas to help build math fact fluency in my 4th and 5th graders, but primarily for ideas on how to implement it in our 2nd and 3rd grade class. I do believe it is important for students to memorize their facts because it needs to be part of their subconscious.  However, it is vital they also grasp the conceptual ideas behind all four operations and how they work together. Laura does a great job with the lessons and activities in the book of helping students gain a conceptual understanding of math facts. She has a lot of hands-on activities, which is great for all students but especially for your kinesthetic learners.  I look forward to sharing more ways I implement her ideas in my own classroom when school starts.

I first printed the book out and put it all in a binder.

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She has a great section at the front of the book that matches the activities to the specific Common Core Standard they correlate to.

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I look forward to trying some of her hands on activities that help students make connections between operations like this egg carton activity.  I like that she gives you detailed instructions for the lessons.  I have taught Language Arts more than Math, so I do not have a huge mental list yet of hands-on lesson ideas for Math.  I think the hands-on activities will be great for the kids who are still struggling with their math facts.  For my Gifted kids who mastered their facts long before they came to me will probably still want to do the activities just because they are fun and more interactive.

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She also has some great handouts that really help you visualize the operations.

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You can get Laura's book Mastering Math Facts as an ebook at her TpT store or in print at her website. You also can get a copy at her publisher's website. Laura also is having a webinar for her book on Tuesday, July 16 at 8:00pm EST. You can read about the webinar at Corkboard Connections.  I would attend, but I will be at the Vegas blogger meet-up.  I do intend to watch the archive though.  If you have not attended one of Laura's webinars, you should.  They are always worth the time.

How do you help your students master their math facts?


  1. I will have to check out Laura Candler's ebook. She never disappoints and has TONS of great ideas and resources.
    Being fluent in math facts is SO important. If they don't have that, then it's so hard for them to move on. I always laugh when I finally get kids multiplication facts down and we go back to addition and they've forgotten it. Online I used this year because it was a great motivator for the kids to earn the certificates once they completed addition or multiplication, etc. is always great because they love the games and competitions. I also enjoyed because the kids could move at their own pace (this is way more than just math facts though). Tenmarks would have been great for your self-contained class.
    I believe working on a basic math skills has to be a school wide effort or it will always be an issue.

  2. I think it's really great that I used "great" so many times in the post above.

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  4. I look onlymessages forward to trying some of her hands on activities that help students make connections between operations like this egg carton activity. I like that she gives you detailed instructions for onlymessages the lessons.


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