Math Fact Strategies Versus Math Fact Memorization

Which Is More Beneficial?

The Debate

For quite some time, the mathematics community didn’t see the value in math facts, instead, the focus was geared towards developing automatic recall of math problems in students. Now, there is a nearly omniscient understanding that math facts are the best way to approach math education, but a new debate has started. Do we focus on teaching math fact strategies or math fact memorization?

Join Math Facts Matters as we break down our ideas on this current quandary.

Just how one needs an understanding of letters, phonics, sight words, and other aspects of language to read and communicate, they also need an understanding of operational signs, number values, and math fact statements to create a foundation of math skills that will then enable them to tackle and excel in high-rigor mathematics.

So what does this mean for the debate of math fact strategy versus math fact memory? Well, we truly believe that it’s about a balance and emphasis on both aspects of math facts. Just like one needs a balance of phonics and sight words to improve their literacy, by focusing on both math fact strategies and math fact memorization, we can develop a more holistic and flexible generation of pupils.

By focusing on math fact strategies and math fact memorization, students will obtain math fact fluency.

Math Fact Fluency Enables Students To Execute:

  • Mental Math
  • Fluent Movement Along The Number Line
  • Bi-Directional Movement Along The Number Line
  • Number Sense
  • Increased Confidence When Approaching Math Problems

The Dilemma – How To Effectively Teach Math Fact Strategies And Math Fact Memorization

As a teacher, you’re likely using all of your time and mental band-with navigating the day-to-day needs of your classroom. That means, while you probably appreciate the research and benefits that math fact fluency can provide your students, the idea of incorporating it with your teaching plans seems impossible.

Most teachers resort to independent fact learning, letting their students take on flashcards, worksheets, and computer programs to drill math facts. However, this strategy most commonly results in frustration among students. This is because we’re relying on students to pull math-facts from memory — but they have not yet embedded those math facts into their memories.

This is where math fact strategies come in. Math fact strategies allow students to learn and embed math facts into their memory. By giving students math fact strategies, they’ll be able independently to practice math, overcome obstacles, and assign math facts to their memory.

Math Fact Strategies + Math Fact Memorization = Math Fact Fluency

How To Choose The Best Math Facts For Your Classroom

Now, we know that math fact memory is essential for developing an understanding of and proficiency in taking on high-rigor math problems. But we’re also aware that to achieve math fact memorization, students must be equipped with the strategies that will let them have “Ah-Ha!” moments that help them solidify their understanding of math facts without inducing frustration.

That begs the question, “How do I choose the proper level of math fact strategies for my classroom?”

To start, focus on strategies that have the highest ‘transfer rate.’ This simply means, choose strategies that quickly and effectively transfer into the minds of your students. At Math Facts Matter, we rate the transfer rate of a scale of 1-10. Additionally, it’s vital to choose math fact strategies that help students recall known math facts. As we mentioned before, trying to get students to learn and comprehend unknown math facts will only result in frustration.

Wondering what math facts are a priority for your students? Try our free Space Challenge Today!

A Few Examples

While there are myriad strategies that we would give a ‘10’ rating, here’s one of our favorites: the properties of 0’s and 1’s in addition and multiplication. We rate this strategy with a ‘10’ because it has the most tangible transfer of knowledge. Of course, the desired results won’t be achieved immediately, but once they are the pay off will be incredible.

Why? After this strategy is understood and implemented, the properties of 0’s and 1’s are practically transferred to the students’ memories immediately.

Another effective strategy we’d rate as a ‘10’ is to utilize skip counting for multiplication math facts. The skip counting method is most effective for 2’s, 5,s 10’s, and 11’s. We don’t recommend using a skip counting method for 3’s or 4’s, and memory transfer will be slower when skip counting for 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s. If you’re interested in utilizing skip counting for these numbers, consider pairing that strategy with other activities and puzzles to improve efficiency.

Feel free to check out our blog for more strategies we recommend utilizing in your classroom.

Let Math Facts Matter Help

Math Facts Matter:

While we still have plenty to discuss regarding math fact strategies and math fact memorization, we’d like to take a moment to give you some other tangible tips you can use right now. Specifically, we want to brief you on what it is we do here at Math Facts Matter, and how it can help you.

At Math Facts Matter, we create different programs, strategies, and classroom kits to help teachers improve the math fact fluency of their classrooms. Included in these are programs to asses the math fact literacy level of your classroom, a variety of math fact strategies and practice programs geared towards specific levels along the path of learning, fun classroom math fact challenges, and more.

You are able to choose a subscription for your class or school that gives you access to our incredible math fact solutions. Our different math fact solutions include:

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Follow the links to learn more about each math fact solution we offer and to subscribe today. And if you have questions about our math fact solutions, our grant opportunities, or how we can help your classroom, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Now back to the good stuff.

Looking for a more effective way to teach math facts? Subscribe to Math Facts Matter Today!

Memorization Of Math Facts

While some see the memorization of facts as obsolete, and even potentially harmful in the modern age, research shows that it can be beneficial in slowing/warding off mental decline in mature learners and helping structure the minds of young learners. Again, we feel the key lies in balancing memorization with strategy application. That way, students can pull memorized facts when relevant, while also being equipped to overcome problems that they haven’t memorized by utilizing their math fact strategies.

We agree that memorization alone is not a good strategy for your classroom — however we do believe that by utilizing a thing called multi-sensory memorization, you can equip your students to immediately place math facts into their memory.

What Is Multi-Sensory Memorization?

Multi-sensory memorization is taking the neurological research world by storm. To understand multi-sensory memorization, we need to understand the basics of the brain. The brain is comprised of four different lobes: the frontal, occipital, parietal, and temporal lobes. Let’s look at what each lobe does in the brain.

The Frontal Lobe:

The frontal lobe is responsible for all of the problem-solving your brain does, from moral dilemmas to mathematical problems. While the frontal lobe does a majority of the heavy lifting, it relies on the three other lobes, the sensory lobes, to help filter, sort, and process distractions and other stimuli present. What’s more, it doesn’t fully develop until about the age of 30, meaning young learners will have a difficult time filtering what problems are a priority.

The Occipital Lobe:

The occipital lobe takes care of processing the visual stimuli we experience — colors, shapes, dimensions, sizes, faces, written content, and more.

The Temporal Lobe:

The temporal lobe covers the processing of aural stimuli like sound and speech, while also helping us comprehend spoken communication.

The Parietal Lobe:

The parietal lobe manages the holistic processing of all the other lobes, while also processing stimuli experienced through touch. For instance, it processes numerical relationships, spatial orientation, language, and coordinates one’s attention.

In essence, the four lobes work together to take in and then understand all of the different stimuli and variables present at any given time. Each has a unique aspect of information processing that it specializes in, but all work together to help us understand and operate in daily life.

Multi-sensory memorization is simply utilizing this knowledge and using multiple sensory experiences to memorize information. When we learn information in the context of a specific sense, we can then trigger the relevant lobe to recall the information.

When it comes to math facts, these cues are only training wheels. But that doesn’t mean their not important. These cues will help students to recall the information, but at first it may be a slow process. Don’t fret, though. You’ll be able to see your pupil’s gears turning as the cues you use (be them flashcards, computer games, mad minutes, etc.) resurface, providing them with the math fact needed.

Eventually, the math facts will be so ingrained into their memories that the cues will no longer be necessary.

How Does Multi-Sensory Memorization Work?

As we mentioned above, multi-sensory memorization works by using cues that trigger a specific lobe in one’s brain. The best way to utilize multi-sensory memorization is a classic method: The See, Say, Hear, Write Method. While in the past this was a time-intensive method, Math Facts Matter makes technology that makes it possible with only three minutes of class time!

Let’s dive deeper into how the different lobes contribute to multi-sensory memorization.

Occipital Lobe

To cue the occipital love, we must show students math facts so they visually see them — flashcards are a great traditional method for this. Please note, however, that for this to be effective as a teaching tool, you must supply the answer. When no answer is provided to an unknown math fact, it results in frustration.

As students see the same visuals over and over, it will be embedded as a fact in their brain, becoming easier and easier to recall.

Once You Practice This Math Fact Horizontally Students Will Eventually Be Able To:
  • Process Math Facts Vertically
  • Process Math Facts From A Pre-Algebraic Perspective

Temporal Lobe

To cue the temporal lobe, you must state and repeat math facts with your class. Keep in mind, each learner operates differently and it will likely take many rounds of repetition to embed math facts into the temporal lobe.

When saying a math fact and having the class repeat it, the temporal lobe benefits in three ways:
  1. A cue is reinforced by you, a trusted figure in their life saying the math fact.
  2. A cue is reinforced by the chorus of classmates repeating the math fact.
  3. A cue is reinforced by the student speaking it and hearing it in their own voice.

Parietal Lobe

Finally, the parietal lobe is cued via tactile interaction with math facts. Writing out math facts usually comes to mind when this is discussed, and writing math facts is definitely a component of memorizing math facts. However, in young learners, the mouthfeel of a math fact is just as important. Think about how babies and young children put things into their mouths — this isn’t to taste the object, but to gain a tactile understanding of what the object is.

So when a student repeats a math fact intentionally and consistently, it becomes a sort of muscle-memory for the mouth. After practice writing and speaking math facts, a student will be able to recall any known math facts.

By utilizing different senses to learn math facts, you’re not only reinforcing those math facts within multiple lobes of the brain, but you’re also providing an equal playing field for all types of learners. With this diverse understanding and application of math facts, students will be able to channel their unique learning style to cue the facts, no matter if they’re aural, visual, or tactile learners.

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An End To The Debate Of Math Fact Memorization Versus Math Fact Strategies

To bring everything full circle, the correct way to approach the learning of math facts is a balance of math fact memorization and math fact strategy application. And in our opinion, the most effective way to do this is through multi-sensory memorization.

If you think multi-sensory memorization is right for your classroom, consider utilizing Math Facts Matter’s array of coursework and programming. To start, check out our free Space Challenge that assesses where your pupils are in their math fact journey. 

When that’s said and done, consider trying a two week free trial of one of our paid programs, or subscribe to Math Facts Matter.

And as always, if you have any questions, please contact us today via the form below.

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