Strategies that Increase Math Fact Fluency

What is Math Fact Fluency?

Math fact fluency is the ability to quickly recall
the answers to basic math facts automatically –
without hesitation.

Why is Math Fact Fluency Important?

So WHY do we need to help our students become fluent in basic math facts?

Math facts fluency leads to higher order mathematics.  Through automaticity students free up their working memory and can devoted it to problem solving and learning new concepts and skills.
(Geary, 1994).
Quite simply, a lack of fluency in basic math facts will significantly hinder a child’s subsequent progress in problem-solving, algebra, and higher order math concepts.  Math fact fluency not only affects our students’ future success in math, but also in science and geography.

For these, and probably a zillion more, the Common Core Standards require us to insure that our students are fluent in their math facts.Math fact automaticity affect performance in later elementary grades as students have longer and more complicated computations to complete.  At this stage, if a student does not have his/her math facts committed to memory, he/she will spend a lot of time and energy figuring out smaller calculations and risk not having time (or energy) to complete the assignment.Their performance in math class is not the only academic area that may be negatively affected.  Other subjects such as science and geography may be hindered.

How to Increase Math Fact Fluency

Math fact fluency is developed through lots of practice with effective tools and strategies.  I have found, and research confirms that Derived Fact Strategies (DFS) are highly effective in increasing math fact fluency.

What are Derived Fact Strategies?

Derived facts are math facts that are derived from known facts.  For example, if we know the doubles fact, 3+3=6, then we can derive the answer to 3+4 by using the 3+3 fact and adding 1 to it.  So a derived fact strategy is the mental process of deriving a new fact from a known fact.  We can see in the picture below how we use the ‘Doubles +1’ strategy to derive an sum by using a known sum.

These posters have a motivating Super Hero theme! Each of the 11 posters defines and gives an example of the strategy. They are great on your math wall for the students to use a reference when needed. I have also included a smaller version to use in centers and small group or individual practice.

 These strategies are also called ‘mental math strategies’ and ‘thinking strategies’.  They all refer to the cognitive process of deriving new understanding by using known information – higher level thinking!

Are Derived Fact Strategies Aligned to Common Core Standards?

Yes, they are aligned to the Common Core Standards:

Add and subtract within 20:
Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2).
Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).
Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies.2 By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.

I have seen seen students transform from discouraged learners to confident learners as they master these strategies!  And they start to enjoy math!I have also seen the flip side.  Teachers clinging to the use of timed tests, traditional flash cards, and pushing the responsibility of math fact fluency onto the parents (much to their frustration) – resulting in frustrated students – even tears – and negative experiences in math for years. Knowing that lots of practice is crucial for students to become ‘automatic’ in their recall of basic facts, I have invested hundreds of hours creating engaging resources to provide students (and teachers) with engaging and effective activities that make practice fun!  Games have always been a hit with students and teachers!  Learning Games provide a fun, not-threatening opportunity for students to get the needed practice to become fluent in their math facts.

Try Using This Strategy Game – for FREE

I have a FREE game for you that provides repeated experience with the DFS (derived fact strategy):  “Plus 2”.  Included with the game is a strategy poster, so you can teach and review the strategy with your students.It is free in my TpT store.Your students will enjoy playing this engaging Superhero game with their friends and becoming more fluent in their addition math facts in the process!  They will be engaged and having fun.  You will not have any papers to grade!  Sounds like a WIN WIN!

Just click on the picture to get your FREE copy.


Click here to see more strategy-based addition and subtraction games.

The following math programs provide additional resources to teach, give independent practice and access student mastery of these mental math strategies. Everything you need to set up an effective math fact fluency program in your classroom!

If you have not tried teaching the Derived Fact Strategies (DFS) with your students,

I hope you will!

If you do – keep on, keeping on!

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Peggy Means

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  • Katie Roltgen June 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    What an amazing list of strategies and ideas! Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  • Linda Burns June 1, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks for these strategies! I'm going to use some of them myself as I'm getting older and more forgetful!

  • Christine Maxwell June 1, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    I remember when I was little, the stress of sitting home in the evenings with my parents practicing those math facts, getting ready for the skill drills. Great ideas to make it easier!
    Christine Maxwell Hand to Heart

  • Peggy Means June 1, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you Katie!

  • Peggy Means June 1, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    LOL! You are so cute! You are not!

  • Peggy Means June 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Christine, I went through the same thing! It was when I taught these strategies to my students that the lights came on in my head. 😉

  • Linda Nelson @ Primary Inspiration June 2, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    What a great run-down on DFS, Peggy! I especially like the two charts – what a great way to organize for planning!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Linda at Primary Inspiration

  • Mona June 2, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Such great information and so important. Thank you for the strategy game. It's perfect for my first graders. Games like these are so effective and my students love playing them.
    First Grade Schoolhouse

  • Cara June 4, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Peggy these are great ideas and tips for practicing math fluency. I love the game. It will be a great review for my littles! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Kindergarten Boom Boom

  • Katie Howard June 4, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Awesome info! Next week is my last week of school for the year and I think my Kindergarteners would LOVE to play a fun math game like this one– so thank you for sharing! We'll try it out!
    Also- my 5 year old was sitting by me as I was going through all these awesome blog links and when she say your picture of the cute little guy with glasses, she said "I want to look at that one!!!" Great job making cute, appealing graphics to go along with your wonderful ideas! You rock, Peggy!

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    My name is Peggy Means. I am a child of God and a retired elementary teacher. I loved teaching and creating engaging resources for my students. Now, I love sharing my resources and ideas with busy teachers around the world.

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