# Yes, Your Students Need to Memorize Their Math Facts

**Students NEED to memorize their math facts.**

If I know my audience well, I’m sure I know what you’re wondering:

“Do I *really* need to help students memorize their math facts?”

“Isn’t that just *drill-and-kill*?”

“How does rote memorization help students achieve *authentic* math fluency?”

Grab a drink and sit down, teacher. *We’re going to be here for a while*.

*My Honest Answer? *

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## Yes, Your Students Need to Memorize Their Math Facts.

What would you do if you discovered that you’re wasting your time teaching grade-level content? Would you change your strategy?

Of course, students need to master grade-level content. As teachers, our job is to help students grow academically. We know the achievement gap is wide, and that we should consistently strive to close that gap. But if our students haven’t mastered foundational skills when it comes to math, all of our efforts will be for nothing.

And those foundational skills? Yup. It includes memorizing their math facts.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy and simple to help students develop true math fluency. It all starts with having them memorize their math facts – and I can help with that!

## Who Is This Girl, Anyway??

Hi! It’s nice to meet you if we haven’t talked before. I’m Brittany, by the way. 😁

I’m an upper elementary teacher turned TPT Seller and Math Learning Coach for 3rd-5th grade students.

I also help other upper elementary educators embody mathematician practices in the classroom – so their students can **achieve authentic math fluency**, and ** love math**.

If you’re new to me, I’m pretty obsessed with helping students become mathematicians. I believe math isn’t just something we do.

It’s magical, and it’s everywhere.

Students will start to see evidence of math in practice when they look out for it.

And when students start doing the things that mathematicians do? Well,* they become mathematicians.*

I** 💙** **LOVE** 💛 seeing students make huge gains throughout the year when it comes to math, and I see it often.

I attribute their success largely to my commitment in helping them master the basics before moving on to grade-level math.

The kids in my class know that my students need to memorize their math facts, before they’re able to move on to other skills.

Ready to help your students achieve exponential growth and to actually develop mastery?

**Stick with me, and we’ll help you get there.**

And, before we go on, I want you to know that my blog isn’t really for the math nerds out there.

I’m on a mission to help teachers who HATE math. Until they get excited about math, the students won’t either. And if students aren’t excited about math, they won’t master it.

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As an educator who used to struggle with math not so long ago, I know how it feels to be teaching something you feel you don’t fully understand yourself.

*It’s a sucky feeling.*

So before we can truly help students become mathematicians, we need to embody those mathematical practices ourselves.

**Don’t worry. I’m here to help you each step of the way.**

** You’ve totally got this!!** 🥰🥰

## Article Outline

Here are the claims I’m making in today’s article:

- Why I’m so friggin’ passionate about math facts
- Students can’t master grade-level content until they’ve mastered basic foundational skills
- Mastering these basic foundational skills is the first step toward true math fluency
- Foundational skills include:
- Counting to 100
- Understanding of place value
- Knowing addition and subtraction families through 20 by heart
- Having the times table memorizes through 12s

- Math fact fluency is easy to achieve through explicit instruction, intentional math centers, and consistent review

## Why I Make My Students Memorize Their Math Facts

In 2018, my class ranked toward the bottom when it came to math scores, math fluency, and overall proficiency in math.

In 2019, my students had some of the highest math scores within our entire district.

So, what changed??

I focused on helping them build those foundational skills.

*This includes memorizing their math facts.*

Despite the trend to do more collaborative learning and student-guided instruction, I did more explicit whole-group instruction.

We focused on one time table per week.

We played games, flipped math fact flash cards, and used tools like dominoes and dice to make it fun.

I had students quiz each other – and I rewarded the heck out of the kids who demonstrated growth and effort.

And, some teachers may *REALLY* hate this – but I started measuring our progress more (I know, the dreaded “D” word – **D A T A**).

It’s interesting to think how pervasive sales and marketing are in the education world. Bear in mind that, I love both – and of course I use sales and marketing to sell my own products.

But this becomes super problematic in education – when you have curriculums and modalities being sold as the “be all, end all” of everything.

SO many voices have said that we need to just build conceptual understanding – and they’re half right.

*We need to build that concrete understanding FIRST.*

And so, I focused on math facts.* AND IT WORKED.*

Multi-digit multiplication, multi-digit subtraction, and long division all started to come more easily to my students.

This is because many students aren’t struggling with the procedures themselves; they’re struggling with the foundational skills of solving basic problems using their math facts.

Now, I could never go back.

I keep doing things that work – and when it’s simple (and can be done virtually for *FREE??*), **it’s even better.**

Now, I *ALWAYS* have my students memorize their math facts from the very beginning of the year.

## Students Need to Master Basic Foundational Skills *First*

Let’s review the procedures from some of the biggest standards to master in 3rd-5th grades.

First, let’s look at the topics of area and perimeter – usually first introduced in third grade.

For area, it’s obvious why knowing one’s multiplication facts makes it easier to find the area of a given figure.

To find the area of a given shape, you must multiply *area**times*** width**.

A = W x H

Area = Width Times Height

*Let’s take the first problem on these worksheets as an example (these are free in my TeachersPayTeachers store, by the way!).*

I always like to start with relatively easy-to-remember math facts on practice worksheets before moving on to something harder.

Most students use skip-counting to memorize their 2s, so **2 x 3 **is a math fact they can memorize quickly.

And even if they don’t know it, if they’ve been taught that multiplication is just repeated addition, then can add **2 + 2 + 2** quickly as well.

However, if they’re not fluent with their addition facts through 20, and/or their multiplication facts on the and 3 times tables, *they’ll struggle*.

## Mastering Foundational Skills is the First Step to Fluency

There’s so much to math fluency, that it could really be it’s own series of podcast epsiodes and blog posts.

And there’s definitely more to math fluency than memorizing math facts.

*But knowing your math facts by heart is a great place to start.*

One big attributing factor to developing math fluency is *automaticity*.

In math, automaticity is the ability to automatically recall the answer (when it comes to facts), or to be able to compute something with speed to the point where it’s near automatic.

For the past several years, many mathematicians and math educators have criticized the development of speed and automaticity when it comes to computation and problem-solving.

But the fact of the matter is, if you remember facts quickly, it takes less time to solve problems.

If math stresses you out, the *LAST* thing you want to do is spend hours working on one problem. You want to get it done quickly, and be done with it.

And, ironically, the faster and easier math gets for you, the less you tend to hate it.

So, yes – *I am *** all about **helping students increase their speed when it comes to math fact recall and problem-solving.

Do I penalize students for not being quick? *No*.

But do I encourage and teach them to think more quickly? *Absolutely*.

## What Are Foundational, Basic Math Skills?

Why, I thought you’d never ask (hehe). **😃**

I’ve already mentioned this a bit throughout the article – but essentially, when I’m talking about foundational math skills, I’m talking about:

- Counting to 100
- Understanding of place value
- Knowing addition and subtraction families through 20 by heart
- Having the times table memorizes through 12s

From that list alone, it’s easy to see why I’m so passionate about math facts, and why I think students need to memorize their math facts.

If students don’t know their addition and subtraction facts through 20, it will be incredibly difficult to add and subtract with multiple digits later.

If students cannot multiply and divide numbers with fluency through their 12a on the times table, it’s going to be very difficult for them to do multi-digit multiplication and long division.

Of course students need to be able to count.

And yes, they definitely need to have a solid, conceptual understanding of place value.

But still, students need to memorize their math facts.

It just makes so many other tasks and skills easier for them down the road.

Thankfully, helping students attain math fluency and memorize their math facts gets easier with explicit instruction, intentional math centers, and consistent review.

## How to Help Students Achieve Math Fluency

All of these list items could be blog posts within themselves. But basically, there’s a simple cycle I always use when teaching math facts to my students.

**Explicit Instruction**

I directly teach them the times table for a particular number, and I stay on that theme for a week. Students are learning new things**CONSTANTLY**–*which means they’re*. I believe we need to**forgetting**a ton*“slow down to speed up”*– meaning, focus on one times table at a time, so they actually get a chance to master it.

During my direct teaching, I typically follow this instructional model, known as the gradual release of responsibility (*with a bit of inquiry-based learning practices mixed in*):

– Create curiosity, test prior knowledge, build background with a tester problem (THEY DO).

– Walk class through a few example problems, explaining my reasoning as I go (I DO).

– Guide class through a few problems – doing less, and having them do more (WE DO).

– Give students a few problems to try with a partner. I walk around to assist (WE DO).

– I look for any misconceptions, and guide students if necessary. I ask students to explain through their reasonings for answers, and I encourage use of the mathematical practices encouraged by Common Core (*which I also*). (I DO)**LOVE**

– Finally, I release students based on perceived ability to work independently (THEY DO ALONE).**Intentional Math Centers**

When used well, I believe math centers are the BEST way to reinforce skills in a way that allows for student voice and choice.

Perhaps more importantly, they allow for students to practice recalling the information – while interacting with the concepts in different ways.

If setup well, they even provide opportunities for students to TALK about math, and to EXPLAIN their inner procedures and reasoning – which is just gold.

They’re not only practicing math skills – they’re developing their ability to reason, argue respectfully, think critically, and collaborate. Math centers are incredible tools when done well.**Consistent Review**

As I mentioned before, we’re not meant to just learn, churn and return to information – especially not if we’re getting a ton thrown at us.

We need to learn in chunks.

This is why I teach one times table at a time, and why I take my time with concepts. I want to ensure students truly get what they’re learning. I want what they’re learning to be meaningful and relevant to them – which, in turn, helps them to use those skills more fluently and quickly.

There are so many ways to build consistent review into your day. You’re likely already using one, if not several, of these tactics:

– Bell Work (a.k.a. Morning Work or Bell Ringers)

– Pop-Up Solve & Shares

– Exit Tickets

– Mystery Math Problem

– Gallery Walks

– Math Raffle

No matter what you use, be sure to build in opportunities for students to review what they have already learned. Otherwise, they’ll just be pouring more into a bucket – while leaking what’s already in there out a proverbial bottomless pit!

## My Conclusion: Students Need to Memorize Their Math Facts

Can you tell yet just how passionate I am about this?! haha

But, yeah – no doubt about it. Students absolutely need to memorize their math facts.

It’s one of the first stepping stones to math fluency, and it makes teaching (and learning!) everything else *WAY* easier.

## Your Next Steps

So, what do you think?

Did I convince you that students need to memorize their math facts? Or do you feel differently?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog post. If you haven’t already, ** be sure to join our Facebook Group here**.

Then,

*share whether you agree or disagree with this blog post here.*

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Then I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

# Other Posts You Might Like

*This linked post shares my story, and why I decided to specialize in math when it comes to my teacher blog and TeachersPayTeachers store.*

If you’d like to learn more about me, or to learn how we can work together, you can *read my ‘About Me’ page here.*

And if you don’t have time for any of that jazz right now, no worries, I’d get it.

Consider sending this post to someone who’d enjoy it, or pin the image below to your favorite upper elementary math board on Pinterest.

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