Two Reasons to Memorize Math Facts

I learned my math facts by “singing” them while looking at flashcards.

Having these facts ingrained with chanting or singing isn’t a bad idea. It might not “feel right” because we’re so into experiential learning these days. But if a kid can’t immediately access and use things like 8 x 7 = 56, he’s going to be slower than if he can.

And if he’s slower, he might get frustrated and start to think that he’s not good at math.

Also, knowing these cheap and dirty math facts helps with confidence. Even if a kid’s struggling with other things in math, knowing that he has this one thing (the “facts”) will help out.

I fight this battle often. Some people feel that math facts shouldn’t be memorized. But there’s so much value in it.

How about you? Which side of the fence are you on?

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5 Responses to Two Reasons to Memorize Math Facts

  1. I fully agree that memorization of math facts is so important. In my combined first and second grade, I fully believed that understanding math does not replace memorization. Timed tests? Never, I thought, for these young and eager math students! Then I heard of a method and decided to try it. I ended up using this method for many years. Children loved taking timed tests. I believe the reason was, they kept track of their scores each day on a bar graph. This method could be for older children also. See my entry about The Joy of Timed Tests:

    • Thanks for your comments, Peggy.

      I’m a firm believer in whatever works for the child is the best way to go. And group excitement goes a long way. Some kids who wouldn’t do well with one type of timed test might do very well in a peer supported and fun way like you describe in your article.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree with both reasons. Some teachers are averse to memorization because of this big deal about “understanding”. In one such discussion, I argued that kids often do understand how adding and multiplying etc. work so exercises for comprehension do not add value – exercises for memorisation do as per above.

    Quick accurate recall add to confidence and prevent frustration.

  3. I should add that memorization should supplement efforts for understanding concepts. I do not mean to belittle the other but rather that the two – memorization and conceptual understanding – complement each other. It’s not either-or.

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