F—What about fact families? and Why do multiplication facts have priority?

What if I prefer to teach in fact families? Is that wrong?
Fact families are sets of facts that are all related such as 2+3, 3+2, 5-3, and 5-2. Teaching in fact families is absolutely not a problem, and certainly not wrong. However, these materials are set up to teach operations separately. You’d need different worksheets than you have and a different sequence for memorization. These won’t help you. Find a fact practice program that practices by families—preferably one that teaches only one family at a time.

Why do multiplication facts have priority in fourth grade and up?
Am I sure? Yes, I’m sure. “But,” you say, “my students are still counting addition and subtraction on their fingers.” I know. And I am still sure—fourth grade and up—multiplication. Why? Once children are in fourth grade it is critical that teachers make sure they memorize multiplication facts—primarily because you can’t be sure of how much help they will get later to learn the math facts. Sadly, the students may only learn one operation to fluency. If so, multiplication facts have priority over addition and subtraction. Besides complex multiplication and division, the multiplication facts are needed for success in fractions and ratios. Students have to immediately see the relationships between numbers in order to understand topics like equivalent fractions, reducing fractions, combining unlike fractions, as well as ratios. Let’s be honest here…those are the things that state tests LOVE to ask about. And more importantly, these are the pre-algebra skills students need to master to be successful in, and to pass, algebra!

If you have the students for long enough (at least one year) you may find that they finish and have mastered both multiplication and division facts. Then you can go back and have them learn addition and subtraction facts as well. Don’t get me wrong — I know that addition and subtraction facts are VERY IMPORTANT — it’s just that multiplication is MORE IMPORTANT.

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