## The Importance of Learning Math Facts

Memorizing the basic math facts used to be a rite of passage in the elementary grades. Nowadays, it seems the classroom emphasis has shifted somewhat. The math facts are still important, but children are not as likely to be forced to memorize them at school in many areas.

Some feel that this task should be de-emphasized with the common usage of calculators and computers. However, when students do not first commit these basic facts to memory at the automatic level, they have several strikes against them as they move through more rigorous math classes. They lack the fundamental, intuitive understandings that such knowledge brings, cannot judge when their answers make sense, and cannot function without a calculator. These are all very good reasons to continue to stress memorizing math facts. Games using math fact flash cards are an outstanding way to do this.

## War

Play this game with math fact flash cards of any operation. Shuffle the deck and deal out to two players. Each player should turn over a card and solve the problem as quickly as possible. The player with the higher answer wins both cards. If the answers are the same, players should deal out three more flashcards and solve that third one. The higher answer wins the round and the winner takes all cards. When one player has all of the cards, the game is ended.

## Hands-Down

Scatter flash cards around the table where everyone can easily reach all cards. The cards need to be answer-side-down and not lying on top of one another. The game leader calls out an answer, and the first player to slap the flash card showing the correct problem can pick up the card. The player with the most cards at the end is the winner. Sometimes there might be cards with the same answer on the table, so both could be winning cards. You can make this game more or less challenging by varying the number of cards on the table. You can individualize it by laying an array of cards in front of each player to be their personal targets.

## Search and Find

For this active game, hide flash cards around the room or play area. Challenge players to find the cards in egg-hunt fashion. When a card is found, the player must say the entire problem and the correct answer in order to lay claim to it. At the end of the game, the cards in each player’s possession are counted to determine the winner. If you wish to individualize this game, try color-coding the cards and instruct each player to search only for a specific color when looking for cards.

## Maze

Lay flash cards out around the play area and challenge players to find them in a specific order. For example, you might have players move from card to card in order of the magnitude of the answers. The players would first go to 2 x 2, followed by 3 x 5, followed by 4 x 8, and then by 6 x 7, because they are in order from smallest to largest answers. For a variation, have players find facts in similar families in order, such as 10 – 1, 10 – 2, 10 – 3, 10 – 4 and so on. One final variation is to challenge players to find flash cards representing related facts, such as 3 + 4 = 12, 4 + 3 = 12, 12 – 3 = 4 and 12 -4 = 3.

## Cards in Order

When you need a quieter diversion, try this simple game. Give your student three to ten flash cards, and have him or her put them into order from largest to smallest or smallest to largest answers. The principle is similar to that of alphabetical order or putting numbers into correct sequence, except that first the math fact must be solved.

## Practice Makes Perfect

No matter what form of practice you choose, students who are motivated and engaged will be more successful at memorizing math facts. You can add excitement and interest by varying the practice tasks, and that will go a long way toward ensuring kids’ cooperation. Consider using these or other games to take the tedium out of math fact practice, and your students will accomplish their goals in no time.