Practicing math facts can be tedious when kids just aren’t feeling it. You may have searched before for fun ways to learn math facts. You may have tried flash cards, dice, bingo, and all of the other typical ways to practice. But the key to math fact fluency is to make it fun and engaging. And the typical methods most people try aren’t as much fun as they could be. Below, you’ll find 5 fun ways to learn math facts that I bet you’ve never heard of before.
But before we start, why should students learn math facts fluently?
Math fact fluency is important for a variety of reasons, but the most significant reason is it reduces the brain’s cognitive load. As students progress to more difficult math tasks, math fact fluency helps lower the stress being put on the brain to do multiple tasks at once. I see the consequences of not knowing your math facts consistently in third grade.
When students are asked to find the area (multiply length x width) or perimeter (add all sides), and they do not know their math facts, not only are they having to remember which formula use and apply it, but they have to use part of their brain’s capacity to use a strategy to solve the math fact as well. This increases stress and leads to students giving up much easier than their peers who do know their math facts. Students run into this time and time again when they solve word problems, multi-step word problems, find equivalent fractions, and more. And the older a child gets, the harder it becomes. It’s vital to start helping students improve their math fact fluency in the lower grades so they can be successful with more difficult math tasks down the road.
Did you know that there are math fact puzzles out there? My class adores puzzles and adding these to our math centers has been a great way to improve fluency. Puzzles use both sides of your brain at once. They provide a mental workout that improves problem-solving skills also improves attention spans.
Puzzles are very versatile which is really helpful for teachers. Do you want your students to work independently on a certain set of facts to gain fluency? With puzzles, no problem! Do you want a great way for students to learn to collaborate and work together? Puzzles is the answer again!
You can find engaging math puzzles here.
#2 Digital Math Games
One of the great things that has evolved over the past few years is there is now access to more educational math games online than ever before. This means students can now practice their math fact fluency online thousands of different ways.
This can be beneficial for a number of reasons. First, the prep involved for you is very low. There’s no printing, cutting, or laminating involved at all. Second, creativity can be taken up a level! In the above game, students go on a “Treasure Hunt” to get to the end of the path! Each time they get an answer wrong, they have to start back at whichever lock they left off on. It’s a quest that wouldn’t be possible on paper and makes learning math facts a lot more fun! Students can play against themselves or can race a friend to see who can get to the end of the “Hunt” first.
#3 Matching Games
Another one of the fun ways to learn math facts is with matching games! In the game above, called “Grab It”, students compete to see who can find the facts they are looking for before their partner! This game can be mixed up so students have access to all of the cards (mix of math facts) or each student can practice a different set of facts. You can see that the red student here is practicing solving their divide by 1 facts and the blue student is practicing their divide by 5 facts. The possibilities are endless. This game is excellent for students who need more hands-on practice and enjoy racing or competitions. Kids love moving around the room and “Grab It” keeps students actively engaged.
Here are some ideas of other ways to use “Grab It Games”
-Students go on a scavenger hunt around the room and try to find as many math fact matches as possible
-Give each student a card. Students walk around and find the other student who has their corresponding match.
-Play “Beat the Teacher”. Have students race to find the matches while you try at the same time. Or, you can time yourself beforehand so they can try and beat your time.
#4 Secret Picture Tiles
If you haven’t heard of secret picture tiles, you’re in for a treat! They are pictures that “magically form” as each math question is solved. Students love this game because they enjoy seeing the end product of each picture. They are perfect for fact fluency because their not too overwhelming and can be completed in a short amount of time. Another bonus?? They can be completed digitally or on paper! They are available for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts.
#5 Whole Group Games
Have you ever considered having students practice math facts as a whole class? I’ve found that incorporating specific times throughout the week for the whole class to practice together greatly improves my students’ math fact fluency. I am always looking for fun ways to learn math facts and whole group games are exciting for all students because they get to work collaboratively.
Every Friday in my classroom, we have 30 minutes of fact fluency time. But I don’t call it that to my students. I call it Fun Friday Math! And my students ADORE IT! At the end of each week, I pull out a game that allows the whole class to work together to solve some type of challenge. Students ALL have to use their math fact skills to help complete the activity. I may split students into groups to race or we may work all together as a class. It just depends on the week.
In the whole group game above, students are given a yellow ice cream cone order. Students are told that they are ice cream shop owners and have to complete the order they were given. Students find the corresponding division facts that go with each ice cream order. The first team to finish their order wins the game! You can see lots of whole group games for every month of the year here for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Now that you’ve read about new ways to learn math facts, you may also enjoy this blog post on a game called “Math Spoons” you can play with your whole class! Try the game out below for FREE!