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Keep It Interesting
One of the constant struggles for teachers is finding ways to make learning exciting. Typically, learning to memorize math facts is about as boring as it can get. I found a way to get not only my students excited about memorizing math facts, but to involve the rest of the school and community in the process!
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There's a Fact in My Pocket
Each week (or every few days, depending on your curriculum), students are given a small piece of paper with a math fact written on it. For example, the piece of paper might say:
6+4 = 10
7x5 = 35
1/4+1/4 = 1/2
Although you could certainly give each student the same fact, the activity is much more exciting when students have different facts. This can be easily managed by having a master list of facts and simply rotating them among the children.
Students are then asked to carry this fact card around with them all week long - preferably in their "pocket." If a fact card is lost or forgotten at home (often in the pocket of whatever they were wearing the day before!), extras are available in the classroom. You may even wish to give each student several copies of their "fact" right at the beginning of the week. Extras could be kept in their desk, and one or two copies could even be sent home. If you are quite concerned those facts will be lost between home and school, another strategy is to keep one copy at school on a permanent basis by simply asking students to remove facts from their pockets before leaving at the end of the day. A copy of the fact should then be provided for at home, so that parents can join in on the "There's a Fact in My Pocket" fun!
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Mastering Math Facts by Involving Everyone in the Learning Process
To help students memorize math facts they have in their pocket, I involve the entire school community. I let everyone know that the kids from Mrs. Wistrom's class have facts in their pockets that they are trying to memorize, and encourage teachers, parent volunteers, custodial staff, the principal - even students from other classes - to ask the children to pose the question, "What's the fact in your pocket?" In response, students are expected to recite their fact...and to do so correctly!
Everyone has great fun throughout the year with this activity. For instance, the Librarian at our school often quizzes the children as they are lining up to return to class. If they are able to recite the fact correctly, they are free to line up. If not...they must return to their seats and silently practice the fact while they are waiting their turn to be called once again.
Our principal loves to pop his head in without notice, point to a student and say, "What's the fact in your pocket." When it is recited correctly, he goes on his merry way. Mind you, this typically occurs outside of the scheduled math lesson. He might pop in during silent reading, a spelling test, an art lesson - just about any time he passes by our classroom.
Before a class trip to the local police station, I explained our fact activity to the chief. Oh what fun the kids had when in the middle of his presentation, he stopped and asked a few kids to recite their facts!
Even the bus drivers have joined in on occasion, quizzing students as they get on or off the bus!
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The best part about this activity is that it can be adapted for many uses and at many different grade levels. In First Grade, students might memorize math facts like basic addition. In Second Grade, students might be mastering math facts like the multiplication table. In Fifth Grade, students might be learning to memorize math facts like the addition or subtraction of fractions.
Your students will have so much fun reciting their own facts and quizzing each other, they are likely to forget just how boring memorization used to be!