Many parents and teachers are faced with the problem of students who may or may not struggle with school in general, but the years pass and they never seem to memorize those ever-imortant math facts. Common questions surface with every mention of this subject: Is this memorization really important? Is repetition the key to memorization? How is a parent to find time for working on yet another task among homework, dinner, little league, and family time? Fortunately, there are solid answers to all of these questions. You will not see articles and studies referenced here. The ideas and opinions that follow come from twenty years of teaching experience and seventeen years of life as a unique student.
Learning math, among other, facts is important for many reasons. Whether a person wants to admit it or not, you do use simple math facts every day of your life. Students also have to progress through an ever-increasing set of math standards and expectations that require combining seemingly endless steps all involving their own simple operations and facts. Each step is an opportunity to muddle the entire solution if the student fails to provide the correct facts within the step, not to mention the amount of time required to solve a problem if each simple fact must be figured separately. And not the least of these reasons would be that one simply does not want to end up in the situation of conversing with other intelligent adults or even prospective employers and find oneself the only person who can not figure a simple problem because 7x8 is just too much to ask.
Is repetition the only way to memorize? It likely will always need to be involved, but the presentation may reduce the amount of repetition necessary. First, the learning style of the child must be taken into account. Does your child seem to memorize songs quickly and never seem to forget them? He or she is auditroy and would benefit from a rhytmic or spoken way of learning facts. This could be a song, rap, or poem, but if there are just a few facts you may be able to talk them out. For example, "When multiplying 7x7 you can think of the sevens as miner's picks. Seven times seven is 49, and there was a ghost in the Scooby Doo movie we bought called Miner 49'er. So the picks and the 49 go together." Just that conversation can permanently etch that fact in an auditory child's brain. Trust me. I have been using it since the fourth grade.
If your child seems to remember what he or she sees, or is strongly affected by images, he or she is probably a visual learner. My best advice would be to get some brand new markers (let your child pick out the colors) then have your child write the facts that are giving him or her trouble on index cards. Include the answer and embellish the numbers and symbols as much as desired. Only do one to three a week. Hang the cards in different places that your child sees often- on the refrigerator, on the wall beside the bed, on the back of your car seat (in front of where child sits) etc. Now leave these until each fact is memorized, then take that one down, but keep in your purse. pull them out for a quick review wherever and whenever you have a moment.
Finally, if your child never seems to stop moving long enough to learn anything, he or she is probably a kinesthetic learner. That means activity must be involved. Have the child repeat a given fact while jumping rope. Repeat a different fact while dribbling a basketball and another while kicking a soccer ball against a wall. The facts become associated with the action and are engrained in the memory. Kinesthetic kids may also benefit from making the numbers and signs out of different materials.
Our final consideration is finding time for all of this, and hopefully you see where I am going with this. Unlike sitting at a table with flashcards or printing out practice pages, all practice can be done throughout the natural courase of the day. Every time a visual child passes an index card.... Through a discussion in the car or in line at the grocery store, or by playing a commercially made CD in the car for the auditory child...... And that kenisthetic child can practice no matter what activity you can not drag him or her away from, including a fact given to him or her on the way to ball practice that can run through the mind during passing drills!
I hope this sheds some light on and removes some frustration from the subject of getting those kids to learn their math facts. By the way, this can be used with any other list of facts that must be memorized at any age! Try it for yourself!
If you have tried other successful methods or have further questions or points of discussion feel free to comment.