Indispensable Math Facts


Math facts! Those stalwart, foundational facts that carry us through our lives, making us able compute things in our head at the grocery store and figure out the cost of a tank of gas. We need them! Our kids need them! Let’s give it our best to teach them to our kids, making their experiences with math much easier.

I heard a Calculus teacher at the university explain that most of the errors he saw on his student’s test papers were not problems in forgetting a math formula. They were simple math fact mistakes that made their answers wrong! Math facts must be learned, and learned to mastery in order for math to be “fun” or “easy” for children.

When should a mom start teaching math facts? I think just as soon as children are able to grasp the concept using hands-on objects. If you set up 2 blocks and add another 2 blocks and your child can conceive of the concept of addition, it’s time!

image-1How? I am not a flashcard fan. I don’t like drill. But I do love math games that make computation part of the play, like Muggins or 24 Game. I like the games that roll dice, and have the player add up the sum (or subtract or times or divide it) and use that number to advance so many spaces.  You can make your own games with just a pair of dice.

Setting the table is great for mental math practice. My kids, as they were growing, used to recite, “We have 9 in our family and Daniel is gone and that makes 8 and Mark is at work and that makes 7 and Emily’s friend is staying for dinner and that makes 8.”

image-2As children progress in learning their math facts, you can play a fun game we made up called “Gotcha”. Each player has a stack of number cards face down in front of them. (You can use Uno cards, or write your own numbers on index cards.) Players both flip a card at the same time, and the first player to say the answer wins both cards. Once the cards are depleted, measure the stacks side by side, and the player with the highest stack wins the game. You can use this to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts. When I play with my daughter Louisa, I clap my hand down on the table 3 times softly before allowing myself to answer. This evens up our ability level and gives Louisa a chance to answer before I whip her!


Multiplication Songs

When I teach times tables, I always start with the “9’s”. They are the easiest! Here are two tricks to get you started:

Hand Me the 9’s

Hold your hands out in front of you. Now look at the math problem: let’s say it is “9 x 4”. Bend your 4th finger and take a look. Starting on your left hand, how many fingers do you see before the bent finger? “3”. How many fingers remain after the bent finger? “6”. The answer to the problem “9 x 4” is “36”. For the problem “9 x 6”, you would bend down your 6th finger, and see the answer: 5 fingers before the bent down finger, and 4 fingers after = 54. Try it with a few numbers and you’ll get actually see the answer in your fingers.

Magic Digits

Another trick for learning the “9 times facts” is the realization that all “9 times” problems have an answer in which the digits add up to 9. Look at the “9 times” answers below:

9 x 2 = 18

9 x 3 = 27

9 x 4 = 36

9 x 5 = 45

. . . and so forth. Do you see that in every answer, adding the two digits will equal “9”. In “9 x 3 = 27”, adding the digits of the answer (“2 + 7”) will equal “9”.

To get the first digit of the answer, just look at the number being multiplied by “9”. In the case of “9 x 3”, look at the “3”. Now count back by one. “3” counts back to “2”. That is the first digit of the answer. Write down “2”. Now, to get the second digit of the answer, you just have to find the number that adds up to “9”. In this case, “2” plus “7” makes “9”, so you have figured out both digits of the answer!

Here are my top choices for ways to make learning those indispensable math facts fun!


#1 Math It
Game-like format, great memory clues to help those math facts stick!



#2 Math Wrap-Ups
Wonderful for practicing math facts. Fun and unique!



#3 Multiplication Songs

Stick in it when you drive somewhere and your kids will be signing their times tables before you know it!


May I recommend:

Opposite Math

Help for Math


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