Even though it might seem old school, knowing your math facts fluently and thoroughly is still a crucial skill. So, before delving into the importance of math facts, let’s first define the term.
What are Math Facts?
Basic number combinations for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are known as math facts. Children should be able to recall these problems within a few seconds. They are addition, subtraction, multiplication, or even division problems. Children can learn math facts, which are simple calculations, to help them complete math problems more quickly. Math facts can be memorized and remembered easily, freeing up mental energy for higher-order mathematical operations.
Math facts fluency refers to “The ability to recall the basic facts in all four operations accurately, quickly and effortlessly. When students achieve automaticity with these facts, they have attained a level of mastery that enables them to retrieve them for long-term memory without conscious effort or attention.”1
Why Should Children Learn Math Facts?
Many people may wonder why children still need to memorize their basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division operations in this day and age when we have calculators and computers.
- Number sense is developed by math fact fluency.2 Children who have a strong sense of numbers will have a better understanding of how numbers relate to one another. They can use and comprehend ideas and information more effectively. It is an important concept that helps children understand the meaning of numbers as well as their grasp of math and ability to apply math in the real world. A key factor that distinguishes between a cursory understanding and in-depth mastery of a subject is number sense.
- Complex mathematical concepts are built on math facts foundation. A child will come across a number of concepts fairly early in their learning process, including long multiplication and division, measurement, time telling, counting money, and adding and subtracting larger numbers. Children who spend a lot of time working on the fundamentals are more likely to struggle with the procedures and become lost in their calculations.1
- Higher-order mathematical learning is facilitated by math fact fluency. This has been proven by research.1 By automating tasks, children can use their working memory to solve problems and learn new concepts and abilities. Simply put, a child’s inability to recall basic math facts fluently significantly impedes their ability to move forward with problem solving, algebra, and higher-order math concepts.2 Therefore, fluency in math facts aids students in completing more challenging math problems more quickly. If they have mastered their math facts, understanding other concepts will be much simpler, and they will be better prepared to solve them more quickly.
In fact, cognitive scientists and educators both concur that for students to master higher-order math concepts, they must be able to recall fundamental math facts with ease. At the federal Math Summit’s opening, Grover Whitehurst, the director of the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES), mentioned this study: “Cognitive psychologists have discovered that humans have fixed limits on the attention and memory that can be used to solve problems. One way around these limits is to have certain components of a task become so routine and over-learned that they become automatic.”3
- Math anxiety is reduced by having solid math fact fluency. Mastering math requires some amount of rote learning. When children struggle with math and fall behind, they tend to develop math anxiety. Early elementary school students should concentrate on learning the foundational math skills needed for later years, including learning math facts, to prevent these anxieties.1
- Brain activity is promoted by fluency in math facts. Independent research demonstrates the necessity and significance of students mastering their math facts. They found that learning math facts caused actual changes in brain patterns! “Recent research in cognitive science, using MRI’s, has revealed the actual shift in brain activation patterns as untrained math facts are learned” 4
There is disagreement over whether or not children should memorize their foundational math facts or be subjected to timed math fact fluency tests. Although math fact fluency is supported by research, many schools have shifted their emphasis away from fact practice and toward more advanced math concepts.5 Regardless of popular opinion, it’s critical to strike a balance between developing skills and applying them if you want to give children the best chance for long-term success.
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- Why do Kids Need to Learn Math Facts? | K5 Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.k5learning.com/blog/why-do-kids-need-learn-math-facts
- Why Are Math Facts Important? (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from http://www.parent-homework-help.com/2010/05/06/why-are-math-facts-important/
- Math – Elm Street School. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://walpoleess.ss5.sharpschool.com/staff_directory/miss_spiniello_s_second_grade/math
- Are Math Facts Important | Important Math Facts | Research. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.gigglelearn.com/math-facts-research/
- The truth about math fact fluency (..you’ll be surprised). (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.differentiatedteaching.com/math-fact-fluency-matters/