The following blog post was written by Susan Hessel, a faculty member at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.
Quick: What’s 6 + 5? 3 X 7? 10 - 4? I’m guessing it probably didn’t take you more than a few seconds to answer these three questions. We use basic math fact knowledge in our daily lives to figure out countless things: how many burgers to make for a family barbeque, how many more minutes we have until our favourite show starts, or how many loonies we need for train fare to work and back.
Now, imagine having to count on your fingers every time you need to figure out 4 + 4, or having to add 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 because you don’t know how to multiply. Such is the reality for many LIFE (Learners with Interrupted Formal Education). What’s more, a lack of basic fact knowledge not only hinders daily life for these learners, but is a barrier to further education. Basic facts are the building blocks upon which all other math is based, from measurement to calculus; furthermore, basic fact knowledge is essential for success in many other high school and post-secondary classes.
In the math classes I taught, I ensured that a portion of each week was dedicated to practising basic facts. I tried a number of different activities that would help learners learn and retain them, while also keeping engagement high. Here are a few activities that I used with my learners:
The learners are put in pairs. Each pair gets a deck of cards (face cards removed). They split the deck and each learner puts his/her pile face down. They each turn over their top card at the same time. The first person to call out the sum of the two numbers keeps both cards. Then the next two cards are turned over, and so on. (This game can be played with subtraction or multiplication, as well). The winner is the one with the most cards at the end of a set time frame.
Roll The Dice
Along the lines of Math War, this can be a game of addition, subtraction or multiplication. Each learner rolls one or two dice, and each tries to be the first to call out the sum (difference, product). If groups of three are made, learners can rotate being a scorekeeper; otherwise, two learners can play without keeping score.
Bingo cards can be made with a variety of numbers. Rather than calling the number (e.g. 14), the instructor calls a math equation (e.g. 9 + 5 or 15 - 7). Alternatively, the numbers on the cards can reflect products, with the instructor calling out multiplication equations.
What are some activities you have done to help your learners memorize basic facts?