2-Minute Strategies 2-MIN. READ

Make Building Math Fluency Fun

By: Laurie Penney 03/05/2024
Learn how to make building math fluency fun with these engaging classroom games and activities.
A young boy and a young girl are playing a board game together.

Fact fluency, or the ability to recall or determine basic math facts quickly and accurately, is forever on the minds of students, teachers, and parents. Fluency results from exploration, conceptual understanding, reasoning, and, of course, practice. But if practice brings back memories of flashcards, long lists of facts, and maybe a bit of angst or even fear, you’re not alone.

Fact practice can be embedded in easy-to-learn, repeatable activities your students will truly enjoy. Try some of the variations below.

Active Games

  • Set up a Twister® board with numbers taped to each colored circle. One player spins a number spinner twice to determine an addition or multiplication fact, and the “twisters” vie to get a hand or foot on the sum or product first.
  • Have students stand in a circle and toss a tennis ball or bean bag randomly from student to student as they call out varied numbers and operations [“6” (toss), “times” (toss), “4” (toss), “equals” (toss), “24” (toss).] Vary this game by bouncing a playground ball outside.
  • Let your students tap into their sense of rhythm as they make up a hand-clapping pattern (think Miss Mary Mack or Pat-a-Cake) they can do while asking and answering facts. Students can set their own pace to go as slowly or quickly as they need.

Number Cube Games

Gather a large handful of number cubes and roll them into the center of a group of students. If you have number cubes with more than six sides, add them to the pile! Try one of these options:

  • Taking turns, student one passes two number cubes to student two and challenges them to solve the fact (i.e., addition, subtraction, or multiplication). If the answer is correct, student two keeps the number cubes. Otherwise, student one keeps them. Students take turns challenging each other and trying to win the number cubes.
  • Provide each student with a bingo-style board with an appropriate number range in the squares. One student pulls two number cubes from the pile and states the fact (no answer), and all players solve the fact and cover that number if it’s on their board. Repeat until someone has bingo by whatever rules you like.
  • For addition/subtraction: One student draws a number card (one through 10), and everyone tries to find pairs of number cubes that add or subtract to the number revealed. This can be cooperative or competitive.

Card Games

Use a regular deck of playing cards for these activities:

  • Lay out cards in a grid, concentration-style. Students take turns flipping two cards, and if they can answer the fact, they keep the cards. Otherwise, turn them back over.
  • Choose a target number such as eight. One student slowly deals out cards face up onto the table. Let face cards equal zero. Working cooperatively, students look for and call out any two cards that add or subtract to make the target (for example: four and four or 10 and two). The dealer covers those cards with the next two cards from the deck, and play continues until all the cards have been dealt.

Tips for Success

  • Remember that these activities are meant to be fun opportunities for practice. Introduce elements of time or competition only if students are comfortable with them.
  • Group students thoughtfully. For example, students may feel less anxious if they are grouped with other students who are working on the same facts or at a similar level.
  • Give students agency. Let the class work together to come up with ways for students to track known and unknown facts, to “pass” if they don’t know an answer, and to check their work if they’re unsure.

Each activity can be modified with the specific facts and operations your students are working on. For multiplication and division facts, card decks with numbers within 100 can be made ahead of time, and two number cubes can create a two-digit number. Consider working on small groups of facts so students experience more repetition. Ideas for selecting groups of facts might include facts that:

  • Follow a certain pattern (e.g., doubles plus one addition facts)
  • Are in a certain number family (e.g., multiplying by four)
  • Have a particular sum or product (e.g., partners for 10, factors of 48)
  • Are grouped by fact families (e.g., addition/subtraction; multiplication/division)

Remember to give your students the time and space they need to develop fluency and help them make choices that will work for them!

Want to hear more from Laurie? Tune into her episode of the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast!

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