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Math Facts=Sight Words?


Paige
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I'm thinking of ditching my girls' curriculum (Math Mammoth) for a few weeks and just getting some math flashcards, playing some games, and drilling them on their basic addition and subtraction facts until they have them completely memorized. They do understand how to do it themselves but it is painfully slow. They have to get the blocks out to add or subtract over half the time and sometimes will have counting errors with the blocks, make a mistake, and get more frustrated. I'm thinking if we go the sight word route with these facts so they can just see it and know it in an instant that we can move on more easily with the rest of the math. Their math curriculum is moving on past basic adding and subtracting and while I know they could do it, given time to work it out slowly step by step, I don't want to suffer through it.

 

Are there any reasons not to drill these basic facts into their heads with flash cards, speed games on the computer, and adding games, so they memorize them more quickly? Will it bite me in the butt later if they embed the facts in their brain this way rather than by slowly memorizing by doing the problems?

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I'd say math facts are sort of like phonics, really.

Although I can see your analogy and agree they are like sight words, too!

But reading by sight only does not give you the tools to decode new material. Memorizing math facts frees you to learn new material quickly, because you don't have to process the facts as part of the higher level procedures.

 

I say go for automaticity. It doesn't have to be drudgery, either--lots of strategies/games/fun things besides drilling with 100 on a sheet and timing. That's good, too, tho--maybe mix it up.

 

One fun thing to do is get a dollar store beach ball (or use one you have) and write a fact in each section. Play catch--child tells you the answer to the fact his left (or right) hand lands on.

 

Games like these are fun and make it sink in.

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I personally wouldn't work on memorization, but on addition tricks. We used Math it for this purpose. It teaches things like: how to add nines and eights (count back one or two), the doubles and the neighbors, and then there are only 6 left to "memorize." Also the facts that make 10 and 5 are important to "memorize", too. Because we've worked with Math-it and an abacus, and I've never let my children "count" for addition, the facts have never been a problem.

 

Now multiplication facts are another story.

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There isn't any *good* reason not to. At some point we have to know those facts, regardless of how adept we might be at figuring out how to get the answers, or why the answers are what they are. We still have to know that 9+5=14 and we're much better off if we know that without having to pull out our Cuisenaire rods or reason it out, KWIM?

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We were doing MUS when we were at this stage. I completely stopped for a couple of months and only worked on the facts. I've never regretted it for a teeny tiny minute. She knows them so much better than I do! I still have her do some of the math drill sheets from Donna Young (not timed) a couple of times a week, just to keep them fresh (even though she uses them everyday in math).

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You know, this thread is far less interesting than I thought it would be ;). I was expecting a controversial post that boldly put forth the proposition that memorizing math facts instead of learning them by thinking them through was the equivalent of memorizing whole words rather than teaching phonics (I know Spycar has touched on this). In short, I was ready for another fiery debate over conceptual math :D. This is rather tame by comparison :lol:.

 

Anyway, to the actual point, I'd try to make sure you memorized them using ways that promote understanding of the connections b/w facts than ways that effectively treat them all as isolated bits of info. I was reading back issues of Growing W/out School, and one of the articles made the point that too many kids have no idea how to use one fact to figure out another - that knowing that 4+3 = 7 gives them *no help* on figuring out 4+2 or 4+4. They just don't see any connection b/w facts.

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You know, this thread is far less interesting than I thought it would be ;). I was expecting a controversial post that boldly put forth the proposition that memorizing math facts instead of learning them by thinking them through was the equivalent of memorizing whole words rather than teaching phonics (I know Spycar has touched on this). In short, I was ready for another fiery debate over conceptual math :D. This is rather tame by comparison :lol:.

 

:lol::lol::lol:

 

Exactly what I was expecting, too :D

 

To the OP: I don't think there is anything wrong with taking time off from your curriculum and focusing on the math facts, however....it would drive my dd NUTS, if we only focused on math facts, so I would take your dds response into consideration. You could also go a bit slower with your curriculum and add some facts drill every day.

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They need to know their facts. I would definitely focus on memorizing the facts, and I might take a bit of time off the regular curriculum to do that, but I'd jump back in to the curriculum soon, and then make sure part of my math time was spent on learning and memorizing and retaining those facts. Or take some time in a different curriculum going over the same things, before you feel it's a good time to move on with your primary curriculum. Keep on using those manipulatives until they can do it without using them, use every trick and method possible until you find what works. As a 16 year home schooler, I've come to realize they NEED to know their facts, there's no getting away from that (my poor first born learned that the hard way). Kids with LDs or memory issues need to work longer and harder and more creatively, but they still need to learn them to the extent possible, and then from there you compensate. So, whether it's like phonics or sight words doesn't matter. Do it both ways. What matters is that we need to find ways to get that info in there. If they make mistakes, show them the right way. Do it for them over and over and over again, until they can do it themselves. Practice is not testing. You are not testing them, you are teaching them. And yes, showing the fact to them on a card several times a day is great input. Do that. And do it a whole bunch of other different ways too. Their speed will increase, their accuracy will increase. Over time. With lots of varied input and lots of practice. There's no getting around it.

 

All the best!!

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Learning math facts in isolation, as memorized nuggets of information, before thoroughly understanding the processes that underlie them, is harmful (IMHO).

 

However, once the concepts behind the facts are understood, quick and accurate recall of facts is extremely helpful in doing more complex problems.

 

So, we work on concepts first and then fluency here.

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Learning math facts in isolation, as memorized nuggets of information, before thoroughly understanding the processes that underlie them, is harmful (IMHO).

 

However, once the concepts behind the facts are understood, quick and accurate recall of facts is extremely helpful in doing more complex problems.

 

So, we work on concepts first and then fluency here.

:iagree:But I have to say I am using MM and I think that there is plenty of practice, and practice, and practice. There should be plenty there to learn the facts. I am not adding to it, but actually skipping some.

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We actually did take the first two months of this year to focus on multiplication facts. DS is great with addition and subtraction (3rd grade), so we just reviewed a bit of that in September, then jumped right into focus on multiplication facts. We did use tricks and mnemonic devices, but he already knew the math behind multiplying, so I didn't worry about that. He's doing great now, and we're moving on in the curriculum. I think it was a good move for us...

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Learning the facts is very helpful, once the child knows what they are really doing.

 

What kind of blocks are you using for counting? I highly recommend the MUS blocks because they are different colors for different lengths and have indents for each individual cube, making them easy to count.

 

Right now they are just using the red unit blocks from the Shiller kit. The tens are green and the 100s are blue, and they all have indents on them to match with the unit blocks but we are just working with numbers through 12 now. They do know how to do it and what adding and subtracting mean, they just have to figure out each problem slowly. Nothing is immediately recalled. Even with 6+0, they have to get themselves 6 blocks, say to themselves that 0 means no more blocks, and then they can answer 6. If they try to do it without the blocks, they would probably say something like 60. Or if they have to find out if 6+1 is equal to 6 or not, they can't just look at it and see how obvious it is. They will have to get the blocks and do 6+1, and then write the answer to get it right. Otherwise, they'll say it is the same or that 6+1 is smaller or something else that makes my brain explode. But I guarantee if I gave one 6 skittles and another 6 + 1 skittles, they would know in an instant that it wasn't equal!

 

I agree Math Mammoth has had them practicing addition a lot, but I sometimes wonder if they struggle because we just need to drill them with the facts so it comes faster or if they struggle because they really don't get what the problems are talking about yet and if it is too soon for "sight math." I don't understand how they can get stuck on the problems adding or subtracting 0s and 1s.

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I'm thinking of ditching my girls' curriculum (Math Mammoth) for a few weeks and just getting some math flashcards, playing some games, and drilling them on their basic addition and subtraction facts until they have them completely memorized. They do understand how to do it themselves but it is painfully slow. They have to get the blocks out to add or subtract over half the time and sometimes will have counting errors with the blocks, make a mistake, and get more frustrated. I'm thinking if we go the sight word route with these facts so they can just see it and know it in an instant that we can move on more easily with the rest of the math. Their math curriculum is moving on past basic adding and subtracting and while I know they could do it, given time to work it out slowly step by step, I don't want to suffer through it.

 

Are there any reasons not to drill these basic facts into their heads with flash cards, speed games on the computer, and adding games, so they memorize them more quickly? Will it bite me in the butt later if they embed the facts in their brain this way rather than by slowly memorizing by doing the problems?

 

no reason at all...i think the memorization of math facts to a point of easy retrieval makes math a dream. We use MM as well, but we used to use MUS, and that is the one strength of MUS...mastery of facts. We also do skip counting memory work, etc.

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I think memorizing so-called "math facts" without a through understanding of conceptual basis for them is exactly the same as memorizing "sight-words" without understanding the phonic value of words, and that the practice leads to very similar problems with math with those faced by children who learn to read only via the whole-word method But we already know that :D

 

We want our children to read with fluency, just as we want them to have the "facts" quickly. One just can't short-cut the process without doing potential harm to fundamental skill building that is "masked" by a misperception of "mastery" when no such thing truly exists.

 

Bill (who like to give the people what they want :tongue_smilie:)

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Gotta love it, Bill!:D:tongue_smilie:

 

I agree...I think the OP has expressed that her dc have a good conceptual understanding, so I say "go for the fluency" now.

 

How to go about getting those facts down cold? This is where I worked "sideways." I used MEP, SM IP, RS games...things that take it up a step in the problem solving realm and hammer down the math facts at the same time.

 

Flashcards might be more efficient. I was dealing with a fairly young dc when I was asking this question, so I felt I was "losing nothing" to repeat that 1st grade level with a curric that involved more critical thinking and problem solving.

 

We'll see how I go about the x facts...my ds actually enjoys games/flashcards/competition at this point and he fully understands how to multiply/divide...I think there *is* value in having them figure it out for a good long while before going for straight memorization.

 

It is comparable to sight words...they need to eventually know it by sight, but must go through the process of decoding to get there. Some kids only need to "decode" it a few times before it's memorized and some kids need to decode it over and over again before it sticks...but if they just memorize it, they will be stuck when things pick up the pace in upper grades...and mainly b/c their brains are not trained to work systematically to solve the problem (or read the word).

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Why is it that people on this forum can be moderate about math facts (yes, you need to know the underlying concepts, but once you do, it's okay to memorize some for speed) but not about phonics? I mean, if someone said that about sight words - as in, I think it's okay to memorize sight words or occasionally guess words as long as you understand the phonics - then a number of people would jump all over them.

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Why is it that people on this forum can be moderate about math facts (yes, you need to know the underlying concepts, but once you do, it's okay to memorize some for speed) but not about phonics? I mean, if someone said that about sight words - as in, I think it's okay to memorize sight words or occasionally guess words as long as you understand the phonics - then a number of people would jump all over them.
Because many of us started out moderate about sight words and we were burned. If one understands some phonics, but not all phonics then sight words might get them up and running faster. If one understands phonics but is not proficient at it then sight words might get them up and running faster. There is absolutely positively no need to ever memorize sight words if one is already proficient in phonics.

 

Math is different, IMO. You have understanding concepts and then you have recall of facts. One can be in Algebra 4 and Geometry 2 and still making tic marks on their paper (now I wonder how I know that :tongue_smilie:).

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I think memorizing so-called "math facts" without a through understanding of conceptual basis for them is exactly the same as memorizing "sight-words" without understanding the phonics value of words

:iagree:

 

I don't understand how they can get stuck on the problems adding or subtracting 0s and 1s.

 

It sounds like your kids are still struggling with the concepts.

I recommend using a different math manipulative where you kids won't have to count to see the result, such as Cuisenaire rods, MUS blocks, or the AL Abacus.

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Why is it that people on this forum can be moderate about math facts (yes, you need to know the underlying concepts, but once you do, it's okay to memorize some for speed) but not about phonics? I mean, if someone said that about sight words - as in, I think it's okay to memorize sight words or occasionally guess words as long as you understand the phonics - then a number of people would jump all over them.

 

I think the potential problem with memorizing sight words or math facts is that kids will become dependent on *remembering* things and become resistant to *figuring out* things. It's a habit of thought that becomes 2nd nature. Even when I teach for memorization, I make the child figure it out..reading or math.

 

Endure the pain upfront is my mantra.:tongue_smilie:

 

Never do for a child what s/he can do for him/herself (ie - figure things out) is my #2 mantra.

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I think the potential problem with memorizing sight words or math facts is that kids will become dependent on *remembering* things and become resistant to *figuring out* things. It's a habit of thought that becomes 2nd nature. Even when I teach for memorization, I make the child figure it out..reading or math.

 

Endure the pain upfront is my mantra.:tongue_smilie:

 

Never do for a child what s/he can do for him/herself (ie - figure things out) is my #2 mantra.

Yes, that is it! I have had such a struggle deciding whether to make them remember it or let them figure it out.
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This is a hot topic for me lately. Last year for 1st grade we used Singapore, MM, and just our own "Living Math" type of thing. We were never able to move on in the curriculum because dd can't do the basic math facts.

 

I was in the camp that believes you must "get it" and not just memorize it. Well, from my understanding after reading WTM and The Core, a young child isn't really able to "get it" when it comes to math. Mental math at the grammar stage doesn't seem to me at this point to be a possiblity. So, now I am ready to work on memorizing those facts!

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Absolutely, totally, not true.

 

Bill

 

I am with Bill on this: getting math is critical. But then I do make them memorize the facts. Still, when my daughter forgets one and ask me, I don't just tell her or berate her for forgetting; I ask leading questions to help her work it out from what she does know. In the process, I seek to teach mental math strategies that depend on really understanding the math and choosing a strategy that simplifies keeping track in your head. Standard algorithms are, imho, important to know, but terrible for mental math. Once you start factoring quadratics in algebra, all that playing with numbers flexibly really starts to pay off versus always writing out memorized facts and using memorized algorithms.

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The abacus has worked much better for us than rods and MUS blocks.

 

Same here. The abacus is an awesome math manipulative!

 

When we tried CLE with flashcards and speed drills, my ds asked to burn them, lol! It works for some and not for others!

 

Rightstart B says that memorizing with flash cards takes away from thinking in math and that brain research tells us our brains do not work as well by associating a third number with two other numbers, rather it is more natural to use a strategy. Instead of memorizing 8 + 7 = 15, you can take 2 from the 7, combine it with the 8 and change it into 10 and 5, or 15.

 

The greatest thing about homeschooling is using what works best for your dc, regardless of what anyone else says is best. HTH!

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I think it is advantageous to take some time (even if it's only a few minutes!) to contemplate the ways you can combine things and how it works out. For example, to stop to consider that 3+0=0+3. It doesn't have to be hours of drill. Just enough to prompt the "aha!" moment, which Right Start definitely does advise. All those activities of building staircases and adding a+b and then b+a are designed to spur that recognition.

 

Sometimes you memorize something just because you've seen it so many times and you get it, not because your mom put flashcards all around the house!

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Based on the advice here, I'm going to take some time off the curriculum and work on the facts, but I won't just do flashcards. My plan is to do some Rocketship Math style worksheets with them. I'm lucky that I have 2 at the same level so they can work together, I'll have them play a few easy games on the computer, and we're getting Sum Swamp to play together. I'm also going to spend some time with the manipulatives reviewing plus 0s, plus 1s, and the commutative property. Thank you for all the thoughts and ideas. I agree that sight math alone is not so good but I also think that just memorizing the facts is important to being able to do more complex math down the road. My 3yr old could have told you that 1+1=2, 2+2=4, 4=4=8, and 8=8=16 by the time she was 2 from listening to They Might Be Giants, for example, but she can't do math. But, maybe in a few years the memorization she has done of that song will help her move more quickly when she starts learning real addition.

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I am with Bill on this: getting math is critical. But then I do make them memorize the facts. Still, when my daughter forgets one and ask me, I don't just tell her or berate her for forgetting; I ask leading questions to help her work it out from what she does know. In the process, I seek to teach mental math strategies that depend on really understanding the math and choosing a strategy that simplifies keeping track in your head. Standard algorithms are, imho, important to know, but terrible for mental math. Once you start factoring quadratics in algebra, all that playing with numbers flexibly really starts to pay off versus always writing out memorized facts and using memorized algorithms.

 

:iagree:

 

I do the same. And I'm already seeing the amazing benefit to this sort of consistent "work" in my 6 year old son's mental math skills.

 

Already he can add and subtract 3 digit numbers in his head, including equations like 564-378 that require the re-grouping or deconstruction of numbers. This is not because of some natural gift, it is because of practice, practice, practice. He has worked his "brain muscle" for mental math and it is a joy to see a developing "mathlete" work through (and be able to explain) his reasoning as he works.

 

Memorizing at the outset (rather than working on re-grouping skills) is a cheat that makes the mind soft. This kind of cheat is no different than any other kind of cheat. It is a false illusion of competency to have a child "know" a memorized answer without their being able to really understand what they are doing and to have no practice manipulating numbers to calculate and reason.

 

At some point math facts and correct answers just can't be memorized. If you don't inculcate the skills necessary to solve more complicated problems mentally then a child will be forced to a calculator or a pad and paper to work a standard algorithm. That might work for basic math, but what happens when they get to higher math and are totally lost?

 

The foundation starts at the very beginning. Better to build on rock, not sand.

 

Bill

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