mastering multiplication tables (with mini flash cards)
Learning math facts has been a long, hard road for Maddy.
It’s actually very often a long, hard road for many kids–including myself–way back when.
I remember hours of practicing my basic facts and hours of frustration at the fact that I just wasn’t learning. I just wasn’t remembering. I felt anxiety on every Mad Minute; I felt stupid because other kids were able to do so much more than I. I felt angry. And confused.
Eventually I got over it, but to this day, I still feel like I don’t really know math like I should. So I’ve been determined to support my children’s learning of math from the very beginning.
And for a long time I felt a wee bit guilty about the fact that we’ve been creating–and using–math fact flash cards for weeks and months and years. I’m not sure why I felt bad, but I did.
If I were a halfway decent mom, I’d help her learn these facts in fun and creative ways all of the time, I convinced myself.
I tried to make flash card practices fun, exciting, and sneaky, but what I realized before long is that it’s hard–really hard–to make flash card work fun all of the time. I get that. But what I have been reading, researching, and remembering is that flashcards aren’t all that bad. (Woo-hoo!)
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Mastering Multiplication Tables: We have flash cards with us usually at all times. I simply throw a set into my bag or in the car, in the event that we are stuck somewhere and have time that we can bust out a little addition or subtraction fun.
multiplication table mini flash cards
Only recently has Maddy been invited to move forward and into multiplication in her weekly math-fact assessments, and we realized that a lot of the multiplication learning fell on our shoulders since technically, multiplication is a third grade component.
The math fact cards multiplication can be printed as a pdf on cardstock, cut, and either used together or by number families. Then throw ‘em in a bag, and you’re ready to roll.
Then we started using them. I pulled them out here, there, and everywhere:
- in the car, waiting to pick up kids or drop them off;
- while preparing dinner;
- before or after bedtime books;
- at the grocery store;
- out front, out back, outdoors, or in;
- while drying hair;
- before or after homework;
- anywhere and everywhere.
Some days, we’d just run through them one by one. Other days, we’d mix it up. We might:
- play ‘Shine On’ — flip the top card on two piles and shine a flashlight on the first answer she knows;
- race — Maddy and I race to say the answer to the card that’s flipped;
- use chalk, paint, markers, water–anything–to write the answer to the flipped card;
- play ‘High/Low’ — flip the top card on two piles and point to the card that shows the higher (or lower) number as the answer;
- just plain-Jane call out the answers.
Whatever floats our boat, whichever way the wind carries us that day.
And recently I ran across an article on Mom’s Homeroom about learning the times tables (“Make Time for the Times Tables,” by Laura Liang, and I was literally doing a jig of joy because the teacher-expert who wrote it actually advocated for using flashcards to learn the (sometimes) tricky multiplication tables. Actually, she didn’t say that outright; she said that “relying on one strategy is not enough” and that “memorization and the ability to model the facts are both necessary.” Yay! Yes! Woot!
I knew this–of course I did! It’s the same deal with teaching reading–and nearly everything else. We don’t rely on one type of strategy to teach reading comprehension; rather, it’s a combination of strategies and techniques, a combination catered especially to each learner’s needs.
So from here on out, I’m going to continue flashing those multiplication cards to my Maddy, helping her to memorize–but also to learn the number concepts of those tricky multiplication tables. And hopefully other parents will do the same. Happy flash-carding and math-learning!
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