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Why a Math Fact Party Won’t Build Stronger Math Students

Why a Math Fact Party Won't Build Stronger Math Students Header

The math fact party, it’s a fun and common practice! You want your students to know their math facts from memory so you set up a game of sorts. You help your students keep track of their progress as they master their +1, +2, +3, etc. facts. When the class has mastered their +9 facts you throw a party!

But how does this tend to play out in reality?

You set criteria for the party… “+ 1 facts earn you a scoop of ice cream, + 5 facts earn you a cherry on top!” but what about the student who has dilligently been working day in and day out during math time but hasn’t mastered the + 5 facts. Are you going to deny them a cherry?

You assess your students toward the goal… but using what assessment? A timed test? We know that timed tests cause math anxiety and may actually hinder rather than help your students toward their goals.

And the structure of the entire party is often based on learning sets of facts (+1, +2, +3, etc.) when we know that students are able to better learn, retain and understand facts when they work with number relationships rather than these linear fact sets.

The traditional math fact party is a fun idea but, at best, the extrinsic motivation does very little to support your students in learning their facts and, at worst, may actually cause anxiety and derail a more supportive fact fluency strategy.

What Alternatives Exist to A Math Fact Party?

  1. Shift your thinking. Math facts aren’t something you need to motivate your students to memorize. Math facts are learned through number relationships and repeated access of that information.
  2. Keep in mind growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. If you do want to reward your students with a party or prize, praise effort rather than the product.
  3. Enjoy the WHOLE journey! Check out this blog post full of activities that make learning math facts fun! Rather than having one fun celebration at the “end” why not enjoy the whole journey?
  4. Understand that Memorization is the last step. We often jump to memorization. We want our students to access their math facts quickly and automatically. In reality, this is the last step! I have a free fact fluency guide for you that walks you through all of the steps leading up to memorization which will help your students to learn and maintain their math facts.

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