2. Understand addition/subtraction fact families.  Fact families are groups of three numbers that are related to one another.  4 + 3 = 7, 7 – 3 = 4, and 7 – 4 = 3 therefore the numbers 4, 3, and 7 have a relationship to one another and are considered a fact family.  Point out to your child that 4 + 3 is the same as 3 + 4 (this reversal is true for addition, but not subtraction).  Using this relationship in teaching math facts to your child will help them with the concepts behind the numbers as well as memorizing the facts themselves.
3. Understand multiplication/division fact families.  Likewise, fact families occur with multiplication and division.  6 x 7 = 42, 42 * 7 = 6, and 42 * 6 = 7.  Again, 6 x 7 is the same as 7 x 6.  This reversal is true for multiplication, but not division.  Keep in mind that multiplication is introduced before division.  It may be beneficial to practice multiplication facts before the multiplication/division fact families are introduced.
4. Create or purchase fact family flash cards.  You can cut out triangles from index cards or cardstock paper.  Write each of the fact family numbers in each corner and the appropriate operation sign along the sides.  Making these with your child will be a learning process in itself.  Use an addition/subtraction or multiplication/division table as a guide in order to make a complete set.  You can generate flashcards on some of the Web sites listed below.  They can also be purchased where educational materials are sold.
5. Your child should understand the concept behind math facts before being expected to memorize them.  In other words, they should be able to visualize the concept and apply it to real life problems in order for it to really make sense to them.  Using simple objects (such as Cheerios, M&M’s, pencils, or paper clips) your child should be able to represent 12 – 3 = 9 by physically moving the objects and actually seeing the problem.  Likewise, if they know that 8 * 3 = 24 then the should be able to conceptualize (as in through a drawing) that if you have 3 pizzas with 8 slices each, then you will have 24 slices in total.

Build number sense concepts through practicing counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s to 100 forward and backwards.  This also helps your child to understand how numbers have patterns and how they are related.  If your child can count: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, etc. then 5 x 7 = 35 will be grounded in a logical pattern.  Referring to a 100 chart helps to make these patterns more visual. You can also have them fill in a blank number chart and you can check it for accuracy.

Check out sites below for blank and complete charts.  Without these basic understandings they will have a bunch of facts in their head that are disconnected from real life.  In addition, this kind of application of math facts is needed for academic success.  There is an emphasis on word problems (also called story problems) in math curriculums and standardized testing.

6. Knowing how and how often to practice is important.  Flashcards are the staple of learning math facts.  Change it up by using standard flashcards and the fact family flash cards.  Make your own sets or purchase them.  The standard cards usually cost a couple dollars and are available at the grocery store and discount department stores.  Keep them handy.  Have a set at home and a set in the car.  Practice for ten minutes or so in a session.  Isolate the facts that they know and don’t know.  In other words, take out the cards that are easy for them or focus just on a certain set (such as 7’s multiplication facts) for a while.  Start where they are and build skills.  It doesn’t matter what they should know if you don’t start at a level that is just beyond what they can do now.  Build up to where they should be.  Don’t overdo it.  It takes practice over time.

7. Counting on fingers shows lack of automaticity.  If your child is counting on their fingers or drawing little groups of dashes and counting them in order to solve math facts, they do not have the facts memorized.  If this helps your child to develop understanding of the concept in the beginning, then it is beneficial.  Let them go through this stage.  But eventually they need to ‘know’ the facts; they need to memorize them and give answers almost immediately.
8. Speed is the name of the game.  Why is it important to be able to complete a whole page of problems in two minutes?  This speed reflects the rate necessary for doing more advanced math.  For example, to complete a three digit by three-digit subtraction problem requires not only knowing the correct sequence of steps, but also applying knowledge of subtraction facts multiple times within one problem.  Automaticity means they can rattle off the facts as readily as they can count to ten.  It becomes a set of memorized information.  Again, they should always be able to explain the concepts behind the facts, as word problems are a big part of math instruction.
9. Track progress.  The fun thing about math fact practice is that it is easy to track improvement.  Your child’s teacher may be giving the timed drills as often as every week.  Praise your child for their progress.  If your child is catching up with their skills, get a hold of the quizzes and do them at home.  Your child’s math teacher can probably give you copies, you can print them off the Internet, or purchase workbooks.  Make it fun.  Put stickers on quizzes showing success or a chart recording their advancement.  Post them on the fridge at home.
10. Look for improvement in other areas of math.  As your child starts to increase proficiency with math facts, other areas of math should start to improve.  Ask your child’s teacher about this and celebrate all of your child’s successes.

Helping your child learn their basic math facts at home is the best way to ensure a strong foundation from which to build their math knowledge.  Slow, steady practice is the key to making progress.  Be creative and make the practice as fun as possible and your child will get a positive message about their learning and develop good habits that will cross over into other academic areas.

Susan Niz, M.Ed.