Fluency with math facts is an important skill. No doubt. Yes, students should have lots of opportunity to gain firm understanding of the thinking behind these simple math equations. Don’t stash those counters just yet! However, those fifth and sixth grade teachers impart some wisdom to us. They know first hand that having a student count on their hands to solve more complicated math equations causes problems with learning math. Therefore, it is important that first and second graders blast their math fluency after they get that firm foundation with the addition and subtraction “thinking”.
What are some ways to build math fluency?
Exposure. Students will naturally build some fluency with those hands-on experiences. Think addition fact games and other fun math center ideas. Utilizing computer games help too. However, do they memorize all of them this way? Some students at most. However, chances are, most will not. They need something to fill in the gaps.
Math fact cards with timers are a good way to make sure students do not have gaps in their fluency. It is a tried and true concept. This activity should not be stand alone though. There needs to be some other things in place to motivate and engage students more with this activity (more about that below).
On a side note, it is fun to add color to the cards. I actually had fun playing with my camera with these.
Being able to say the facts in a minute and write them in a minute is two different skills. That is why it is good to have a timed writing activity. Laminate them, and they can be reused over and over. It is also good for students to be able to self-correct these problems in some way. Tracking their progress through the week is also a good idea.
All these activities can fit in a basket for a math center. You could even have different baskets to differentiate instruction.
Differentiation can happen with these folders too. Students can work on different sets of facts with little effort on your part. It makes it easy for students to know what facts to work on at the center by providing a sheet that shows them this information.
Speed tests assess fluency. You can actually get away with having students test on different fact sets at the same time. It literally only takes a minute to give this test!
Make progress tracking part of the motivation. Adding a fun space theme allows students to soar around the galaxy, and they are learning the names of planets while they are at it.
When some students are not making adequate progress, it is important to add some more TLC to them with some intervention. Some one-on-one time with either you, a parent, or a guardian is recommended. You could also send some fact cards home with them too if desired.
When a student completes their tour of the math facts galaxy, celebrate their success! Of course, let them know about their mission and the rewards that await them before you blast into space! This will drive up motivation and keep them engaged along the way.
I like to add some fun crafts to the celebration. Rocket glasses and rocket crowns make the celebration extra fun!
Photo props are like the cherry on top. Have them strike a pose, and you can display the pics on a bulletin board. Since I went with a space theme, I created this space mask to go with it.
Of course, having a certificate that states their mission is complete and declaring them an official “Galactic Math Fact Zoomer” is always a good way to motivate students too.
(PS. Anything with a colored option in the set has a lined option, except the center signs.) You can click on the two images above to link to the resource.
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