Monday, April 22, 2013

Math Facts

I don't know why, but teaching addition and subtraction can lead to some of my most frustrating moments as a teacher.  When I started in my classroom, some of the only "curriculum" given to me was Touch Math.  For those of you who haven't heard of this, it is a math program that teaches kids to add by counting dots on the numbers.  Ideally, you fade out the dots on one number, and then the second.  When there are no dots left, students can still remember where the dots are and use their finger to touch the place where the dots should be.

At first, I was convinced that this was the best way to teach addition, because my kids picked it up so quickly...and it was easy to teach.  But, after a little while, I realized that my students were completely dependent on the dots... they weren't able to generalize their addition skills to any problems without dots!  Maybe it is my fault that I didn't fade them our correctly...or maybe I waited too long to fade them out.  Another downside to TouchMath, is that it takes a lot longer to count out dots than it does to have a math fact memorized.  And, I am all about speed and accuracy when it comes to developing skills in the classroom.  I'm not trying to totally bash TouchMath....I do think TouchMath helps kids who are visual learners (most of my kids with autism fall into this category) understand the actual math CONCEPT.  So, I still use TouchMath when introducing addition and subtraction, but now I quickly fade the dots out.   This has been working much better! I have students practice counting on the numbers (when no dots are present) and even have them practice drawing on their own dots for harder problems they don't have memorized.  

Another way we work on addition/subtraction is through traditional flash cards.  At first, I struggled with how to go about getting started with this.  I didn't want to put 50 cards in front of my students and have them get them all wrong!  That would be super aversive...I mean, who would want to be wrong card after card?  So, instead I start with the card 0+0, 0+1, 0+2....all the way to 0+9.  I have the cards also the opposite way (1+0, 2+0, etc).  We work on memorizing these...then move onto the +1s (1+1, 1+2...1+9), then +2s (2+2, 2+3....2+9).  This way, when you get up to the higher numbers (which are harder), you have less cards to learn.  For example, when I get to +9s, the only fact left we haven't covered is 9+9.  So, over the course of days, weeks, months, or even the full school year, we slowly work on adding more cards to our deck.

Another activity I have been doing with some of my students who have more language is talking about the patterns we see each time we start a new group of math facts.  In the pictures below, I was introducing -3.  We lined up all the cards in order.  Then the students had to come up with the answers to the problems (they touched the numbers where the dots would be to figure them out).  They wrote the answers on pieces of paper...then talked about what the patterns we saw (i.e. the answers go up by one for each problem).  Then, we mix up the cards and practice working on memorizing them at a quick speed.  We make this into a game and the kids LOVE it!

Another activity we do is written math-facts timings.  Kids complete as many problems as possible on a worksheet during a 1-minute timing.  Then they graph their scores each day.  We do these with already mastered math facts to work on speed.  See this post for more info on this activity.  Do any of you have good methods/activities you use for teaching math facts?


  1. I should do something like this. But I also have had a hard time figuring out how to start it all. I'm pinning this so I can reference this later as well! Did you do this as a whole class, small groups, or one-on-one?

    I also love that you have them graph their scores. I do that with our news-2-you.

    1. I did this in small groups during my direct instruction time. I work with two students at a time. The students working on subtraction are at a similar level, so we did this activity together. With other groups, I sometimes get one kid started on an activity and then work 1:1 with the other student.