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3 Tips to Build Math Fact Fluency

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Let’s face it: math fact fluency for our students is necessary, but the typical fact repetition isn’t always the most engaging form of practice. I am always searching for fun AND exciting ways to help build fact fluency in my classroom. Having proficiency in math facts helps lay the foundation for future mathematicians, but I know it needs to be switched up from time to time.

Here are a few fresh ideas that I have found for my classroom and I hope you can incorporate them into your classroom routine as well!

1. Focus on Mental Math Strategies

In order for students to become fluent with math facts, they must have a variety of go-to strategies in their toolbox to pull from when they become stumped. Instead of focusing on memorizing facts, teach strategies to help students understand the relationship between numbers. Strategies like using doubles and make a ten are powerful. Having strategy posters displayed around the room is helpful for students! I also like to challenge by students to show me what strategy they used to solving a problem, and then ask them to find another strategy they could have used. It helps to strengthen those number connections!

2. Make it Fun and Engaging

If you want student buy-in for math fact practice, you have to make it exciting for them. There are many easy ways to do this!


The minutes I say “game” in my classroom, I immediately have buy-in. My students love any opportunity to play a game, and they don’t even realize that they are learning or practicing their skills! I have several addition and subtraction games and activities in my Let's Add and Let’s Subtract pack that my kids play throughout the year. They can be used in small groups, with a partner, independently, and even for homework. Many of the games also have differentiated options to support all levels of learning.

Partner Work

I find that my students are way more engaged in the learning activity when they get an opportunity to work with a partner! They get an opportunity to talk about math/adding numbers, learn from one another and most of all, have fun! Partner work can be super simple too. You can use a deck of cards and have students add or subtract as they both flip a card over, or do a similar activity with dice! It doesn’t have to be complicated, because your students will love the opportunity to work with a friend!


If you’re not singing in your classroom, what are you doing with with your life?! Haha! All jokes aside, music is one of the best ways to build lasting connections with your students! Here are some of my go-to songs for building math fluency!

3. Weekly Practice

Number talks are a great way to build math fact fluency, but not just with the standard rote memorization. With number talks, students are encouraged to share how they solved a problem, they get to listen to strategies from other students and prove their thinking. After implementing number talks with my students, I saw gains in my students number sense and place value understanding, mental math abilities and math fact fluency. My students actually looked forward to this part of our day and didn’t want to miss out on our number talks. If you want to learn more about how I conduct number talks, including paperless number talks, in my classroom, you can head over to this post.

While fact fluency does not come easy for every student, having these quick and easy tips to refer back to and incorporate into your classroom will hopefully help to build that fluency with your students! 

Building Number Sense in the Classroom

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Number sense is such an important skill for our students to have. This can be something that we can forget to incorporate into our lessons, but it’s something that should not be overlooked. There are many ways you can easily incorporate this into your math routine plus, building number sense and teaching number relationships does not have to take up a ton of time.

I want to share some of my number sense routines and activities that I have used over the years that have been so effective in building number sense with my students.

Number Talks

What is a number talk?

A number talk is a short discussion between teacher and students about how to solve a given math problem.

How does it work?

At the beginning of your math block, you present each problem and give your students wait time. Students mentally figure out the answer (no paper or pencil) and give a thumbs up to show that they have at least one solution. (Students can put additional fingers up if they have more than one way to solve the problem. For example, two fingers up means I have two ways to solve the problem). After sufficient wait time, students can share their thinking as the teacher records their responses. During this time, the teacher can ask questions like: "How did you get your answer?" and/or "Why did you use that strategy?" You will want to include those incorrect responses in your number talks as well.

Why is it effective in building number sense?

Students are given an opportunity to grapple and reason with numbers and problems independently. Number talks encourages your students to discuss how they came up with their answers. When students speak about their process and answers, they can uncover mistakes, self-correct and develop an understanding of different strategies for solving problems.

I love using digital/paperless number talks in my classroom. Number Talks are all about the process of mental math computation and sharing strategies, so the digital/paperless format was perfection. All I have to do is display on my board and the number talk is ready! I have these resources available for easy use in my TpT store and they are organized by grade level. Click on your grade level to get started with digital number talks today!


Math Journals

What is a math journal?

A math journal is a composition notebook where students are given math prompts to glue and solve in their journal.

How do math journals work?

At the beginning of math workshop, I pass out a math journal prompt to each student to glue into their math journals. After reading the prompt/problem together a couple of times as a whole class, the students work independently for about 5 minutes to solve the problem. Then, you can share as a class how you solved the problem. Encourage different strategies to be shared.

Why is it effective in building number sense?

Math journals allow students to stretch their thinking! Math journals give students opportunities to share and talk about how they solved a problem. It is during this time that students are able to justify their reasoning while also evaluating strategies from their classmates.

It's never too late to start incorporating math journals into your classroom today. These math journals are a great resource for your classroom, just print and you're on your way! 

Number Sense Games

Incorporating games into your math routine is a great way for students to work on building their number sense.

These place value games keep the content engaging for your students and can be easily incorporated into independent center time. It's a great way for students to explore number relationships through number sense games!

No matter what approach you take to building number sense with your students, the most important thing you can do is to help students see math as fun.

Check out some of my favorite manipulatives to use when teaching number sense:
Teacher Created Resources Foam Base Ten Set 

Base Ten Place Value Frame

 Mini Rekenreks

Unifix Cubes

Ten Frame Dice

Magnetic Ten Frame Set

120 Chart Mat

Dry Erase 100 Charts

Place Value Disks

Dry Erase Number Lines

Ring in the New Year with Kindness

Wednesday, January 1, 2020
I can't think of a better way to start out the new year in my classroom than reinforcing the importance of kindness! Our world sure does need more of it right now. Having conversations and brainstorming how we can show kindness encourages our kids to go out and practice it. I created a simple, just print activity where your students can do just that- 20 Ways to Show Kindness in 2020. Download it for free here.

Happy New Year!!

Digital Number Talks

Monday, February 25, 2019

Watch this short video to learn how using digital number talk lessons was a game changer in my classroom! 

Try a week out in your classroom here:

Halloween Brain Breaks

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Halloween is right around the corner! One thing I do to help survive the sugar high craziness is give my kiddos a few minutes in between activities to get their wiggles out. Today, I just want to quickly share with you some of my favorite Halloween brain break videos.You can find them all on YouTube. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Meet the Teacher Tips

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It's that time of year!! Last Monday, I met all 23 of my precious students and their families at Meet the Teacher. Several of you have also already had Meet the Teacher and many of you are probably getting ready for it! 

Meet the Teacher is one of my favorite days. I love meeting my new students and their families. Our kids come to school with bags of supplies to find out who their teacher will be (they have NO idea who they have until they walk through the doors and look at their grade level list), who's in their class, what their classroom looks like, and where they will sit. It's a day packed full of excitement, anticipation, and maybe a few a lot of butterflies! Let me tell you, I still get so nervous even after 8 years. Honestly, I think it will always be this way, so I'm learning to just go with it..haha! Here are five simple things that I do every year to help my Meet the Teacher day run smoothly.

For the last couple of years, I've made sure to carve out quiet time before Meet the Teacher begins. As you know, pre-planning is nonstop do this, do that, meeting here, meeting there..., so this is my time to unplug my hot glue gun, hide the to-do list, and breathe. I try to turn my lights down, play my favorite songs, and pray over my classroom. This is the most powerful thing I do to help me calm down and clear my mind before the party begins. 

Even though I love my parents (and other family members), my main focus is connecting with my awesome students. First impressions are important! When they walk in the door, I want them to feel important and welcomed in my classroom. Many are super shy, so I tell them to go find their desk to get their special first grader treat! This usually breaks the ice and helps spark a conversation about what they did this summer. You can download the BTS survival treat bag tags here

Sometimes I wish there were 4-5 of me during Meet the Teacher to be able to greet everyone right away. The reality is that I'm usually in the middle of a conversation with someone when other families arrive. I leave a little note and checklist of things to help them feel right at home until I can go over to introduce myself. I got this awesome idea from the amazing Cara Carroll over at The First Grade Parade
It helps manage traffic so well! 

I also try not to overwhelm my parents with information to fill out in the classroom. They take everything home to complete in a file folder, other than a quick student info sheet (free download from Cara Carroll's blog) and transportation note.

In the packet parents take home, I include a letter to introduce myself and specific classroom information. Rowdy in Room 300 made an adorable editable intro letter you can use to make your own. Click here to check it out! LOVE it!!

Teachers have way too much to do at the beginning of the year to spend their precious time sorting school supplies. Like many of you, I learned this the hard way. Save yourself hours and ask your parents/students to help you! I like to put labeled plastic containers and baskets around my room for parents/students to sort their supplies. Having pictures on the labels makes it super easy for kids to help out! They love it! 

Click here to download the school supply bin labels.

I also ask parents to put specific school supplies in their child's pencil box/desk. Oh how I love not having to worry about doing this on the first day! With all the Meet the Teacher craziness, it is nice to have directions (with pictures) also on the SmartBoard to help parents. 

Student info sheet is from The First Grade Parade.

I think one of the most stressful times during the first day of school for me is dismissal time. If I can get all my babies home the right way, I can relax and call it a successful day! I like leaving a transportation note for parents to fill out and turn into me before leaving Meet the Teacher. This way, I can get my transportation list ready to go and clear up any issues/confusion first thing on the first day! 

I hope these tips help you get ready for your Meet the Teacher day! I'd love to hear your Meet the Teacher tips in the comment section:)

PAPERLESS Number Talks

Monday, October 16, 2017

A couple of years ago, I started using digital/paperless Number Talks during my guided math block. The results from this simple, powerful teaching practice blew me away. They instantly became the perfect math warm-up! My students were engaged in meaningful discussions focused on mental math and computational strategies. They were building their understanding of number sense and flexibility in number thinking. The benefits of this daily (5-10 minutes) Number Talk routine was also evident throughout the rest of our math time. 

To make Number Talks effective for my students, as well as for me, I started carefully crafting problems into digital slides each week. It didn't take long for me to realize that digital Number Talks are AMAZING! All I had to do each day was open up a slideshow and my Number Talk lesson was ready. Such a time saver! Since Number Talks are all about the process of mental math computation and sharing strategies, the digital/paperless format was perfection.

1. Teacher presents each problem and gives wait time.

2. Students mentally figure out the answer (no paper or pencil) and give a thumbs up to show that they have at least one solution. *Students can put additional fingers up if they have more than one way to solve the problem. Example: Two fingers up means I have two ways to solve the problem.

3. Students share their thinking as the teacher records (students can also record). During this time, the teacher is asking questions like: "How did you get your answer?" and/or  "Why did you use that strategy?". Incorrect solutions and methods can and should be part of Number Talks.

I personally like to do Number Talks at the beginning of my math block, but it can be done at any time that works best for your schedule. 

Encourages math communication from all students
•Provides structured practice for mental math
•Promotes the value in using mental math to compute
•Promotes the importance of being flexible with numbers
•Uses a variety of strategies for computation
•Helps strengthen students' understanding of place value

You can start Number Talks at any time of the year, and I've made it really EASY for you! You can get 40 weeks of PAPERLESS NUMBER TALKS in just one click here!

These Number Talk lessons were designed to engage your learners in meaningful math conversations focused on mental math and computational strategies throughout the year. As I mentioned before, they make the perfect math warm-up! All you have to do is upload the Number Talk digital slides (PowerPoint)- PAPERLESS and ZERO prep! Everything is already done for you! 

Each day of the week has a specific Number Talk mental math focus. The predictable and student friendly structure of the digital slides allows you to spend more time talking about math instead of giving directions/expectations over and over.

Here is a snapshot of
 PAPERLESS Number Talks for 1st grade! 

Make it Monday
 Students will mentally think of equations that make the number in the circle
 using the given numbers. 

True or False Tuesday
Students will mentally solve the equations to determine 
whether they are true of false. 

Work it Out Wednesday
Students will mentally solve the equations and share their thinking. 

Time to Subitize Thursday
Briefly (5-10 seconds) flash each slide. Students will share what number was shown, as well as, explain their thinking in determining the number. 

Fact Fun Friday
Students will mentally solve the equations and share their thinking.

Every daily lesson has 5 slides/problems with the exception of Make it Monday where students are brainstorming ways to make the target number. I've also included editable/blank slides in case you would like to create your own problems.

Number Talks have never been easier! 
Try a week for free here!


First Grade:

Second Grade:

Third Grade:

Fourth Grade:

Fifth Grade: