Youtube Title: fun ways to learn essential math facts

“Yay! My favourite part!!” We had so many fun ways to learn math facts that practising math facts was a joy and not like my experience growing up.

Row upon row of desks with students standing beside them. Chanting, in unison, 1×1=1, 2×1=2, 3×1=3 . . . etc. until we knew it. Then we would graduate to 2×1=2, and so on until we had mastered the 12 times tables.

What I have never fully understood is why we stopped at the 12 times tables 🤔. That has always seemed kind of arbitrary to me.

Truthfully, I have had students who loved to practice learning their math facts.

In a recent blog post , “Master Math Facts: The Best Easy Activities For Classroom Math” I chatted about some of the basics you need in a math program to support math fact mastery.

Today’s chat is more about differentiation in math, and that games are about more than just fun ways to learn math facts.

Games are effective for differentiation in math *and* they are fun ways to learn math facts. 🤗

And, because I know differentiation can be a lot of work, later I will share how these activities help you to avoid burnout.

## Starting with differentiation in math

Of course, you want to make it possible for *all * of your students to master their math facts. So the “differentiation in math” part is essential for the ”fun ways to learn math facts” part to be effective for your purpose.

A leader in the concept of differentiation in instruction is Carol Tomlinson, who is a professor of educational leadership, foundations, and policy at the University of Virginia. She identifies the following four ways to differentiate instruction:

- Content – the
*what*of learning - Process – the
*how**do students make sense of ideas*part - Product – the
*how do students show what they have learned*part of learning - Learning environment – the
*climate or tone*of the classroom that makes students feel that they are safe to make mistakes and comfortable to think and process

Each of these is described in more detail in my blog post, “10 Powerful Ways to Implement Differentiation in Classroom”

## Choosing the most effective fun ways to learn math facts

Being “fun” is not the same as being effective, and we want both.

In “Master Math Facts: The Best Easy Activities For Classroom Math” I shared the essential, and the fun ways to learn math facts.

Today, I am selecting just a few of these activities and I will connect them to Carol Tomlinson’s ways to implement differentiation in math. My hope is to clarify the power in these activities as I have heard too many teachers doubt the importance of using games in math.

Or, maybe even worse, keep games as “rewards” for “good behaviour”.

Have I been emphatic enough? 😁Games are more than just fun ways to learn math facts. They are powerful learning tools.

### 1) Math facts coloring pages are an all time student favourite for fun ways to learn math facts.

I wrote a whole blog post showing how colour-by-code supports math fact mastery, and there are many reasons to value color-by-code in the classroom.

But I am staying focused specifically on the principles of differentiation:

#### Content:

Each student can color the same coloring page design or picture, but work on a *different math strategy. *If you buy my make ten resource camping colour-by-code and my add doubles camping colour-by-code, all of your students can be colouring the same *design, *but be working on different *strategies or math facts. *

Content is also differentiated because there are multiple designs for each math strategy. This allows your students multiple attempts to practice this strategy, or, for those students who master them quickly, multiple designs to choose from when they go on to the next strategy.

Lastly, there are year round themes providing lots of variety for those, like me, who get bored easily.

#### Process:

Simply put, coloring is more visual than a black and white sheet of questions in a row. More than that though, your students can work on them collaboratively to add a social element for your auditory students. You can even print them as an 11 x 16 for a larger poster.

#### Product:

Make colour-by-code a part of a choice board, and then your students can choose it, or something that better fits their needs. Or, if you require they do everything on the choice board, they have more control over what is a “color-by-code day” and what is not.

#### Learning Environment:

When you factor in engagement, choice, colour, potential collaboration and self-regulation, this activity has a tremendous impact on the learning environment.

And, of course, because they are fun ways to learn math facts, color-by-code impacts the learning environment.

### 2) Write the Room activities are one of my personal favourite ways to learn math facts.

I have always loved the quiet social nature of Write the Room activities. Get students up and moving rather than being tied to a desk, focused on their work while quietly interacting, building community as they help each other out.

There are so many ways to differentiate.

#### Content

I prefer to use task cards for Write-the-Room activities as one of my fun ways to learn math facts.

Getting students up and moving does support your tactile kinesthetic learners, but there are more opportunities here.

Provide multiple worksheets to choose from supporting students at different levels of growth as in my task cards:

- Number bonds – to support students in connecting the concrete, to the representational, to the abstract.
- Equation bank – similar to a word bank or vocabulary bank, but with equations
- Blank grid – like a standard task card worksheet

Or . . .

Post multiple strategies around the room.

And, to make it easier, my task cards for each math strategy bundle look different.

Or . . .

Use the same strategy, but post multiple levels of challenge within each strategy. Number bonds or equations

- Addition or subtraction
- Different unknown number spots

My Write-the Room bundles include all of those options for each strategy for lots of fun ways to learn math facts.

#### Process

- Write the Room gets students up and moving for kinesthetic learners
- Collaborative problem solving for auditory learners
- Engaging task cards for visual learners

#### Product:

Students can choose which student recording sheet to use, or you can let them choose which strategy to work on depending upon what you have posted around the room.

#### Learning Environment

Movement, interaction, fun, play like, choice . . . all of these things will impact the learning environment for your students.

### 3) Board games are engaging at home and at school.

I have created a board game for each math strategy, and they are very simple to use.

The spinner and instructions are right on the page, and I made them on a regular letter size paper to easily slip into a binder sleeve or file folder for storage.

However, another teacher shared that they had printed them on black and white and sent them home. Fantastic idea!!

Meanwhile . . .

#### Content:

As mentioned, I have created a different board game for each math strategy. This alone will differentiate content.

However, I have also included multiple worksheets and answer keys with each game. This facilitates content differentiation through:

- Offering multiple math strategies
- Choosing addition or subtraction
- Choosing which unknown number spot to work on within a strategy

I also like that depending upon which unknown number spot the student is working on, some of the worksheets reveal the patterns within the strategy. This supports inductive learning.

#### Process:

Games are social, interactive, visual, and, therefore, supportive of visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners. Including worksheets makes them support each of visual and kinesthetic learning styles even more.

#### Product:

For the visual kinesthetic learner the product may be recording their answer on the worksheets. For the auditory learner, the product may be the actually saying the answer, with the writing it down merely a part of what they are expected to do to show you they’ve got it. 😉

#### Learning environment:

Games change learning environments through engagement, interaction, colour, even by the community that is created through the interaction.

### 4 Digital Resources to support differentiation in math.

Full confession, as I write this digital resources are still being developed in my store. I have a few, but nowhere near as many as my other resources.

Ironically, the fact that there are a few is an indication of how important digital resources can be for differentiation in math. They are there because, even though *I prefer* to see students using more hands-on activities, I know that digital resources are valuable, so I am working to include them in my store.

In other words, they aren’t missing because they aren’t valuable, but rather I have started to create them because they are valuable as fun ways to learn math facts.

But anywhoo . . .

#### Content:

Once again, you can have students work on any math strategy. For digital resources I did choose a different design for many of the strategies. Because it is on a screen students are somewhat shielded from the comparison between what they are working on and what their peer is working on.

#### Process:

These digital resources are very accessible for the visual learner.

They can also be an excellent choice for students who have the mental math down, but struggle with fine motor skills or eye hand coordination can really excel here.

#### Product:

Students just need to be able to tap a key to share their understanding which is a boon to many.

My digital resources come with the option of allowing students to print off an award once they have completed the game accurately and successfully.

These certificates are fantastic for everything from student led conferences to portfolios, but they are also just an option. The teacher can choose not to have them printed off.

#### Learning Environment:

These activities are fantastic on a choice board containing a variety of fun ways to learn math facts. Also, for students who are introverts, they can be a nice option.

And, although it is important to provide interactive activities for all those students who have too much exposure to devices, the occasional digital resource is a very “known” activity. A comfort zone activity, if you will.

And teaching students to use technology appropriately is a part of the curriculum where I live, so digital resources are a controlled and productive way to facilitate that while providing fun ways to learn math facts.

## One more word on content differentiation in math

For an added level of differentiation most of my activities include the option of providing the students with a number line or without.

For example:

- Each of the colour-by-code designs come with a number line or without
- Each of the 3 different worksheets in my task cards come with a number line or without
- Each of the unknown number worksheets for the board games comes with a number line or without.

## Choice as an element of fun ways to learn math facts *and* differentiation in math

So much has been said of each of these activities, and yet together they are even more powerful.

Choice is an important part of the “Product” aspect of differentiation in math, and everything.

When your students have the opportunity to choose how to show their learning they are able to do their best.

Now, I don’t think that that means they only do colour-by-code or only play digital games. I believe that variety is good.

However, you can allow them to choose which activity from a group of 2 activities that are set out that day.

Or you can allow them to choose solitary or collaborative work twice in a week.

Perhaps you can provide a choice board on which they may have to try everything once, but they get to choose the order, and for a bonus they get to choose their favourite for their “bonus’ activity.

Maybe the choice is the theme of the colour-by-code, or the math strategy they are coloring.

What about choosing a number bonds worksheets or task cards, or an equation bank work sheet with number sentences for task cards.

Maybe they choose a worksheet with a number line. Or without one.

Can they decide which missing number they want to work on for their board game?

Regardless of how you implement choice, you can see that once you choose the right activities for your fun ways to learn math facts can provide a multitude of options for your students to choose from.

The challenge can then be prepping it all. 🥴

## Facilitating differentiation in math with carefully chosen fun ways to learn math facts

Careful curation of your fun ways to learn math facts will provide engagement, build community, and maybe even keep the dreaded math anxiety at bay.

Hopefully I have provided some insight into some things to consider as you choose activities.

But the challenge of differentiation is often the prep.

Drum roll please. 🥁 I am about to do a shameless plug for my math resources here. 😊

I love children, and as a Special Ed teacher I was often concerned for the students because I could see that many of them struggled because they couldn’t do the work in front of them.

However, as a retired classroom teacher I also understand the exhaustion and burnout that comes from demanding prep.

Each of the activities that I have shared today are intended to engage students, and to teacher keep burn out at arm’s length.

They are intentionally mostly print and go. There is some minimal quick cutting for the task cards and perhaps some laminating if you want.

But they are also more than just a board game, a set of color-by-code, or a set of task cards.

My blogs often end with, “one step at a time” and “you’ve got this”. These are designed to make it easier to take that differentiation one step at a time, with a bit of support from me.

All of that* plus* math fact mastery!

## Getting started with fun ways to learn math facts

This post has been a long one. Thanks for sticking with it. I tried to cut it into two or make it shorter, but it is just such an important topic.

My students often cheered for the math block. I loved to teach math, and I am sure that came through.

However, I also love to see children play, and productive play was a significant part of our math block.

Clearly, each of these activities is so much more than “just a game”. And, of course, there are more activities out there that will support differentiation in math a strong math program.

Get started by curating these, or other, simple prep and go activities. Then when your classroom is established, dig into the more labor intensive activities.

Just take it one step at a time, and you will be well on your way towards sharing fun ways to learn math facts. You’ve got this. 😉

Previous blog posts referred to in this post:

Master Math Facts: The Best Easy Activities For Classroom Math