Friday, November 3, 2017

Let's Talk About Multiplication Fact Fluency

Earlier this week, I shared this post about memorizing facts versus knowing facts from memory. In this post, I talk about how I used to think timing kids daily on multiplication facts was the backbone of my fourth grade curriculum and how my perspective has shifted over time to one where I believe kids should know their facts from memory rather than through memorization.  If you are not familiar with this idea, here is a video where Graham Fletcher explains it better than I ever could.

After re-sharing this post from last summer on my Facebook page, I received the following comment from Michelle:

"While I agree that strategy is the way to go (it's the only way we teach math facts), I'm second guessing myself when it takes 15 mins to work through a 2-digit x 2-digit multiplication problem bc every 'part' (when using partial products for example) has to be worked out using a fact strategy when kids don't know their facts well. It takes soooo long. I'm so proud when my intervention students get the correct answer but it might take 40 mins to do 3 problems and I start to second guess myself-should I be drilling them more often. I know that they know AND can discuss the fact strategies they used as they go, but I sometimes wonder when is the leap to automaticity going to come. Maybe I need to just be more patient? I'm speaking of intervention students that are seen multiple times per week. Taught the multiplication strategies last year, didn't retain the strategies over the summer, now reteaching but feeling stagnant...guess I'm just having trouble bridging the gap b/t them knowing the various strategies and automaticity. I am supposed to be teaching division to one of them but it is so so difficult when they don't know their mult. facts. This student can complete problems correctly using 100 bead number line or draw a picture and circle groups (divisor) but w/o that are completely unable to make an educated guess bc multiplication facts are not solid. I just hope I'm doing the right thing focusing so much on strategy. Would really love for them to be proficient by the end of the year."

Here is how I would respond to Michelle and to anyone else facing this struggle.

Michelle makes some excellent points!  Their strategies do need to have some level of efficiency.  First of all, are your students fluent with adding 2 double digit numbers mentally?  The ability to do this is the backbone of multiplication fact strategies and is a super important pre-requisite skill.  This is one of the many reasons I hold off on introducing the standard algorithm for addition.  If this is a skill you find is missing in your students, here are some great games that can be done to get your students comfortable with this important skill. Another excellent resource is the Number Talks book which offers a great framework and specific problem strings that can move your students forward with mental addition strategies.

Once you are feeling good about your students' fluency with double digit addition,there are lots of ways to work on building efficient strategies.  I know it can feel like you are moving backwards to have to go back and work on multiplication fact strategies but it will pay off in the long run.  Your work with double digit multiplication and with division will be so much easier if your kids have efficient strategies for multiplication.  Again, I have to say the Number Talks book is an excellent resource that provides a framework and specific problem strings that will move your students forward on fact strategies.  Here are a few of my other favorites for moving kids forward with fact strategies:

Your students are lucky to have you Michelle!  I am sure you will make a big difference for them.