Mastering the Basics

As students move through school, the mathematical knowledge required to solve more complex maths problems increases. Often a hurdle to progress is gaps in the understanding and knowledge of basic facts and number concepts.

Basic facts are practised everyday at school through teacher led-activities and games with their peers. Many students would be able to teach you maths games such as Rocket, Bowl-a-Fact or Greedy Pig, that practise these needed skills. These games encourage the instant (or as quick as possible) recall of number facts. They can be played to practise either addition or multiplication with just minor adaptations. 

Classrooms may also use digital based activities and games to practise these facts. Your child may have an E-ako, Sumdog or Times Table Rockstars login that they can also access at home. 

Classroom teachers often get asked by parents and caregivers how they can help support their child in this area. Many of you will still be able to recall these facts quite quickly. This is great for your children to see. Learning your tables is a bit like riding a bike - you may be a bit rusty to start with, but once you get going again it will come back to you. 

There are many ways that you can support your child's progress in mathematics by practising basic facts at home.

Here are 8 activities using items you can find around the house or in your local community to practise a range of basic facts.

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  • Playing cards

Use cards to play traditional games such as snap and memory. As students turn over the cards they can add or multiply the numbers together. If they are correct - they keep those cards. 

  • Dice

Draw a rocket on a piece of paper with five segments on its main body. Roll two dice together. Add or multiply the numbers together and write the answer in one of the empty sections. 

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  • Collections of items, for example cars, marbles, shells, pebbles.

Place these items into groups. Can you find a way to work out how many you have quickly? Try skip counting or putting them into an array (grid).

  • Chalk

Play hopscotch. 

Hopscotch is a great way to practise counting up in order from any number or you could even put the answers to times tables on and skip count as you jump from square to square.

  • Pens, paper and scissors

Use these items to make fractions of a shape. 

Pretend that the paper is pizza or even cake. Cut them into halves, quarters, thirds etc. Make sure that all of the pieces are equal - nobody wants the smallest piece of cake!

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  • Out and about

When walking around the neighbourhood, point out the numbers on letterboxes. Skip count as you walk. 

Can they predict what the next number will be? 

Can they tell you what the numbers on the opposite side of the road might be?

Can they calculate what number the house 5 houses up the road will be?

  • Knives, forks and spoons

Ask your children to set the table for meal times. They could calculate how many of each utensil they will need and then work how many altogether. This is also a good way for students in Year 0-2 to practise skip counting in 2’s to start with and then add in a desert spoon and skip count in 3’s. 

  • Folding the washing

Ask them to help fold the washing and group similar items together. How many of each item per person? How many for the whole family? What item of clothing is the most worn in your household? Which is the least worn? Talk about the things they notice.

The saying is "Practice makes Perfect", and that is the case when it comes to basic facts. Being able to instantly recall their facts to 10, 20 and their multiplication facts helps students to use strategies to solve more complex mathematical problems without getting caught up on basic facts.

Speed of recall is a key factor in mastering basic facts. If your child is using their fingers or taking time to calculate the answer, they have not committed that fact to memory. Don’t hesitate to send your child’s classroom teacher an email to find out which basic facts to focus on. 

Practising math can be a fun part of your everyday life. It can also be a great way to get them helping with housework tasks without even realising.

Key Words:  Mathematics, Basic Facts 

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