I have taught K-8 math for over 20 years, and when students come in knowing basic arithmetic facts (simple addition and subtraction, multiplication tables, etc.), I can bring them up to grade level in no time. While parents may think of algebra or geometry as difficult subjects for students, the hardest instruction is always teaching basic facts to primary grade students.
I am not just talking about rote memorization or letting students rely on their fingers or count backwards for subtraction facts. Teaching basic fact skills requires careful planning, with the goal of developing automaticity through learning, repetition, and practice.
Knowledge of math basics provides a foundation for more complex computations. Understanding numbers and developing mental strategies are important factors for math fluency. If students forget an answer, they can use their basic strategies to retrieve it. Students who merely memorize cannot do this.
Mastering these basics takes time. In most K-5 classrooms, basic fact instruction is a routine part of the school day, but with in-person schooling disrupted this past year, students face reductions in teaching time. Now more than ever parents must supplement schooling with math repetition and practice at home.
Simply telling a child to “go study” is far less effective than getting involved. Play basic fact games together! You can find many teacher-made games. Traditional games, like Monopoly and Yahtzee, also involve basic arithmetic if you let your student be the “banker” or score-keeper. Use manipulatives such as beans, cups, and coins when teaching doubling, division, skip-counting, money, time, etc.
If you need more suggestions or encouragement, please feel free to ask us. Basic fact fluency is foundational for understanding higher math. Teaching students the basics takes time, but with creativity and purpose, we can make it fun and rewarding for them.