I wouldn't say it is a new obsession....so I have a hard time seeing why there is anything wrong with this.
I didn't say that there was anything wrong with learning the math facts, and I didn't even mean to imply that there was anything wrong with learning them. I am against the memorization of math facts even thought we did a lot of work with math facts in 1st and/or 2nd grade at my PS also and that was a long time ago.
My district is obsessed with math facts in grades K-6 and they have been for the last several years: some kids love it, some kids hate it. The majority seem to do just fine with it, but I will say this: Hundreds of the kids are coming to my classes every semester with practically no number-sense, poor counting skills, shoddy understanding of place-value/base ten and an absence of mastery over 'basic math', so what ever they are doing isn't working very well.
**Please keep in mind, this isn't a judgement of you, your kids or your math program at all. I don't know enough about your kids or you and I am not at all familiar with your specific math program, this post is only an explanation of my comment.**
So while I don't think that its wrong to learn math facts, or even to devote a significant part of the time to them. I do object to what is the current practice of prioritizing the memorization of math facts over developing number sense, efficient counting and arithmetic skills and trained mathematical thought.
My siblings and I were 'the best' math students at school throughout our academic career. Not because our mom was a math teacher, but because she trained us like mathematicians from the first day. For us, doing pages of math facts wasn't about memorizing the answer, it was an exercise in fine tuning our number sense and thinking. We weren't drilling to see just how much we could remember, we were drilling to automate--through training--our thought process (or math voice, as we called it back then). It was like exercising to build muscles or practicing martial arts--you drill it until it is reflexive, automatic and you can get it right, every time, without conscious effort or thought.
The steps that I described earlier? The whole: commute, compare, compare, disassociate, count routine that I mentioned that is the sort of thing that we drilled--not exactly the math facts, though through these exercises we definitely learned and committed them to memory, but we didn't set about to memorize the math facts and the point was to get us used to thinking and following logical thought processes. If you did the whole routine on a simple problem than you were wasting time and effort--thus defeating the point. (Do it again!)
We learned to think of everything in terms of 5 and 10, so like my '3+4' example from earlier, we looked at it as 5 +2 and we quickly learned that 5+2=7. Mama always taught us that thinking is more powerful than knowledge. Thinking allows you to exploit facts, relationships, rules and rote-knowledge to serve your purposes. (We had a lot of those 'knowledge is power' posters at school and they irked my mom for some reason.) After the 5 and 10 concept was set, we shifted and did a lot of equivalent equations practice also.
We did the same the type thing with upper level math not just 'math facts'. It seems a lot more 'long and drawn out' in the early stages but we weren't trying to memorize, we were training the thought processes and trying to master mathematical thought, not just the current topic in the math book.
So I guess it could be said that while I am against memorizing math facts, I am not against learning them. I hope that better explains my comment, and again, I am not familiar with your program, kid or you so you guys are probably doing just fine, I'm not trying to snidely imply that your math text is inferior to whatever else is out there. I was just trying to explain my comment a little more and I'm not very eloquent so its hard for me to sum up or be succinct about things without sounding short or blunt. I hope you understand.