A consistent mastery of math facts, such as multiplication
tables, addition families, etc. is greatly influenced by the functions
of attention and memory.
The Impact of Attention
The mental energy controls of attention get the
‘fuel’ to the brain that the learner needs. By maintaining
concentration and sustaining a high level of mental energy, a
student is able to "tune in" to the learning of math
Then, using the processing controls of attention
to effectively think about the new mathematical information (in
this case, attending to details of number and sign), a student
can build a repertoire of mastered facts.
Finally, the production controls of attention
help the student recall and use math facts efficiently, for example,
enabling a student not only to remember math facts, but to self-monitor
for careless errors in the process.
The Impact of Memory
Long-term memory also plays an important role
in the mastery and automatization of math facts. Often math facts
are memorized and later called to mind as paired associations.
For example, a student might learn the equation, "two times
four" and the answer, "eight" as an associated
pair. Thus, when he hears "two times four," he automatically
associates and recalls the number "eight" as the missing
half of the pair.
The ability to organize math facts as pairs,
then to recall these pairs with ease is aided by a student’s
long-term memory skills.
Here are some strategies to help students develop
and strengthen their mastery of math facts.
|Incorporate multi-sensory activities into
the teaching and memorizing of math facts, i.e. have students
write it, say or sing it, show it, do it, etc.
||Use group rehearsal. For example, "Softly
repeat each fact as I give it to you before writing it down."
||Keep students’ optimal attention spans
in mind. Plan short breaks when teaching and practicing math
||Give students who are inconsistent in their
performance of math facts an advanced warning before calling
on them (e.g., "In three minutes I am going to ask you
to run through the multiplication tables for the number 5.").
||Encourage students to use mid-task self-questioning
during math computation activities, e.g., stopping to check
calculations after each line.
||Take advantage of students’ strengths
when teaching math facts, e.g., use sounds, rhythm, and musical
instruments to teach students with musical talents, use manipulables
for those with strong spatial skills, etc.
||Use multiple methods (e.g., flashcards, rhyming,
rapping) to help students "over-learn" critical fact
pairs. Have students work in teams, drilling each other on facts.
||Provide jump-starts to help students get going,
e.g., start one or more math problems, provide the first fact
in a sequence, etc.
||Let students use accommodations for facts
that are not already automatic. For example, math fact tables
may be kept on hand for reference during math activities. As
math facts are mastered, remove the supportive prompts.
||Use math fact tables as a learning and assessment
tool. Have students fill in a partially completed table as a
practice activity, and complete a blank table in order to identify
which facts are automatic, which are known but not yet automatic,
and which are still to be learned.
||Give students plenty of positive reinforcement
as their mastery of math facts improves and their recall becomes
||Teach students to self-monitor their daily
use of math facts. Provide checklists that list steps for self-checking,
etc. to serve as a self-monitoring guide until the student internalizes
the process and is able to self-check on his/her own.