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Building Number Sense with Math Facts

You may or may not already know that I am a full time first grade teacher, as well as one of two of my school's math coaches. It's been quite a test of balancing teaching, coaching, blogging and a personal life. I would have loved to take more time to create additional products for TPT this year, but my role as math coach and teacher has taken precedence over smaller projects. In doing so, I was able to find something that I have truly become passionate about and I am *so* excited to share it with you today! This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.

This year our school has been focusing on implementing the Mathematical Practices, while also transitioning to a math workshop style instruction. My fellow math coach and I have been doing research and attending PDs around these topics in order to lead workshops during our inservice days.  After reading the book Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, I became inspired by the dramatic shift in the way Jo Boaler and her colleagues were approaching math facts. They stressed the importance of number sense rather than remote memorization. According to her chapter, “Fluency Without Fear,” Boaler states, “math facts are important but the memorization of math facts through repetition, practice and timed testing are unnecessary and damaging. Math facts are best learned though the use of numbers in different ways and situations.”
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Education has created a climate and a culture that emphasizes memorization and speed when learning math facts. When classrooms focus primary on timed math tests, we are sending the message to our students that a fast recall of a math fact is what it means to be “good at math.” Studies have shown that this plays a significant role in developing math anxiety. Math curriculum publishers continue to promote this educational practice and it is up to us as educators to use better math practices in the classroom. 

When thinking about how we can shift our teaching practices to support this type of thinking, it's vital that we think about how our students are engaging with math facts. Are they focused solely on speed and accuracy? Are students using the same strategy to solve each math fact? The question we want to start asking ourselves is, "does this math fact center encourage students to look at the numbers and think about them flexibly?" This is a simple yet powerful and effective shift in building number sense! We can continue to use the resources and tools that we are currently using, but add a modification to encourage this type of thinking with our students.

Therefore, I have created a resource that embodies this school of thought. My Building Number Sense with Math Facts (addition through 20) is a tool that includes instructional practices that focus more on building number sense rather than speed. 

It includes center ideas and materials that will allow your students to understand numbers and ways they relate to each other. Someone with a strong number sense can use numbers flexibly and fluidly. Thus, we must provide opportunities to encourage students to notice the patterns with numbers through fact strategies. This will build a lasting number sense, ultimately bringing them success with algebra in years to come. 

The template for flash cards labels included are to be printed on Avery 5160 labels found here. You can either stick them on cardstock, cut and laminate or place them on bright colored flashcards


The task cards pictured above are printed on Astrobrights paper and laminated with my Scotch laminator and laminating pouches. This laminator has become my most prized office supply in my classroom! It heats up in just minutes and is perfect for last minute center prep. Plus the lamination is thick and great quality. You can find it on Amazon here for only $28! 



This product also includes the types of addition mental math fact strategies, as well as a detailed clear progression of the different types of math facts to teach into for your primary learners. This will give you some insight into a developmental progression for your students. Use this list to get a general sense of where your students fall on the continuum from addition through 20.


In place of your math timed tests, this resource also includes "Math Fact Fluency Check-Ins." It encourages the use of number sense and focuses less on time. Students will feel successful with the structure of this assessment. The "Math Fact Fluency Check-Ins" will also enable you to monitor student progress, inform your instruction and create strategy groups. The resource provides explicit directions for how to implement this assessment and gives a student sample. There are 3 differentiated options. It also includes a strategy group planning sheet to use after you complete the check-ins.


The differentiated options are based on the developmental progression of the types of math facts. As the students move up letters, the list builds on itself and includes all strategy types.


I plan to add to this resource by including subtraction through 20 and then addition through 100 in the coming weeks! Be sure to grab this pack at this price while you can! It will be increasing before adding the subtraction component. I recommend this to primary teachers (K-2), math coaches and even academic support teachers (enrichment/basic skills). You can find it here!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out! 

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