Basic Math Facts Made Easy!

I've been struggling as a parent with my 5th grade daughter and my 3rd grade son's math curriculum. They follow the Envisions program at their school. I like how the Envision program boosts the mental math and estimation skills. I am wowed by some of the reasoning that my kids can do at their age so there are some really good things that can come from this program. However, I am finding that this program really lacks in building a foundation of learning the basic facts. By learning, I don't just mean understanding the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, the program is fine in that regard, what I mean is getting the kids to "know"="memorize" their basic facts. I am a firm believer that when you start working with longer addition/subtraction and moving into long regrouping problems the kids should know their basic facts by memory. If the child is stuck counting on their fingers a simple 3+2 they are at a huge deficit when they have the problem 423+92 in front of them. The same goes with the larger multiplication/division problems. A student is only asking for frustration on 423÷9 if they don't know 9x4.

I am seeing these struggles with both my 3rd grader in his larger addition and subtraction work and my 5th grader with her larger multiplication and division work. Both of these kids have never had issues in math before and have always felt it was their most liked and stronger subjects. My older 8th grade son never had these issues either. He did not use the Envisions program for the elementary grades and I feel he had a much stronger foundation therefore he avoided these issues. My daughter has strong addition fact skills and again she did not use this program in the K-1st grade where the addition fact foundation was built. She started using this program in 2-3rd grade so multiplication is where her deficit lies.

The school utilizes a skip counting chart and recommends finger counting to help the with the multiplication facts. This has not helped my daughter and in fact is causing her many careless errors in her work. I am not a fan of this method, so at home I am using the method that I used in my classroom. Breaking the factors down by 1-2 at a time and memorizing by the use of a multiplication table and timed test. We have been taking nightly timed tests working up to a 100 problem mixed (0-12) factor test. Her first testing of the mixed factors she was given 5 minutes and was allowed to use her multiplication chart. She completed 96/100 problems correctly. That was on October 16th. We've been doing it nightly (with the exception of Friday or Saturday) and last night, October 28th she completed that same test in only 3:30 seconds getting all 100 problems correct without the use of a multiplication chart! I am so proud of her! I am not surprised however, as I used this method for years in my classroom and I always saw great results in all ability levels. This method works! Check it out for yourself here:

You can find all the timed tests and multiplication charts available for FREE in my store as well.

Since I did not have a unit created for addition to help my 3rd grader I have spent the last few weeks creating one. His whole math foundation is being built with the Envision program so I need to intervene now! I am using the same philosophy of breaking the facts down by one addend at a time. He's been moving through at a quick rate and we are now doing 5:00 timed tests of 100 mixed addends of 0-10. He's still utilizing a number line and his fingers more than I would like but I know with nightly quizzing the rote memory will come. You can find the new addition unit here:

You can find all the timed tests available for FREE in my store as well.

My son is being introduced to the concept of multiplication in school right now so I am starting the above multiplication unit with him at home starting with the 0-1's so we don't find ourselves in the same situation his 5th grade sister is in.

If you are finding your child struggling with the basic facts please check out these resources. I know timed tests aren't the "in" thing to do anymore but they really do work. I've seen it with my own children, I've seen it with several years of students in my classroom, students of all different learning styles and abilities. It doesn't have to be a competition among the class, only a competition from day to day for the individual child. They just need to beat yesterday's score. That is the goal each day!

A Division Unit is also available if you are looking to work on the division facts.

The Wonder of Wonder by R.J. Palacio!

I just finished up creating a new unit for the novel, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Of all the curriculum materials I create novel units are my favorite, but creating Wonder By R.J. Palacio Novel Unit Study~ Common Core Standards Aligned! by far has been my all time favorite! It has been a long time since a novel has prompted me think so deeply on so many levels.

Summary of Wonder:
(From the Book Jacket)

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Auggie's struggles are written on his face. You go into the book knowing you are going to read about a kid who's going to have a tough struggle. The surprising thing with this book is that you end up realizing that the other "normal" characters who seem to have it all on the outside, they are beautiful, rich, smart, etc, all have some type of struggle as well. This book really makes you look beyond the cover and delve deeper underneath. It is a wonderful resource to strengthen empathy and learn to not be so quick to judge a "book by its cover" so to speak. This led me to a great after the book writing activity that corresponds with Plato's quote: “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

One thing I really love about the unit I was able to create was how the text lent itself to higher order thinking questions. There are very few knowledge level (recall) or even comprehension level questions in the comprehension packet section of the unit. The vast majority are analysis and evaluation level questions because that is just where the text leads you. The book is just so thought provoking!

If you've purchased any of my other novel units you will find this unit set up a little bit differently. This book is written in eight parts so I have expanded the vocabulary activities to cover the eight parts. The comprehension assessments come after Part 1, Part 2, Part 5, and the end of the book instead of waiting until the very end as I do in my other units.

As with my other units this unit is aligned to the Common Core Standards for grades 4-6 and contains the alignment checklists for all of the activities.

I loved how R.J. Palacio subtly adds the character of Daisy the dog as the only soul who does not "see" Auggie's facial abnormalities. Through Daisy's interactions Ms. Palacio shows the unconditional love of animals. This prompted me to add a Reading Informational activity to the unit involving therapy dogs and animal assisted therapy. I know teachers are looking for Common Core aligned resources to help with Reading Informational Text skills so I added this small activity into the unit. I also have offered it as a stand alone free activity, that can be downloaded here:

As you can tell I loved this book. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I think it would serve well in any 4-6th grade classroom. However, I do have one minor complaint. In the book Auggie also deals with a hearing loss and there is a chapter that describes his experience in getting fitted for a hearing aid for the first time. I am also hearing impaired and have worn hearing aids for several years. In some ways Ms. Palacio was spot on describing Auggie's feelings about wearing hearing aids around his friends and how he may be perceived. However, Ms. Palacio was very off the mark when she described the experience of getting hearing aids and how they work. This is very understandable as I am sure most people do think that wearing hearing aids is very much like wearing glasses, which is how Ms.Palacio describes the experience. In reality it is nothing like that. After reading this chapter in the book I felt so strongly that I felt the need to add my own supplement to the unit explaining what it is really like to wear hearing aids and have a hearing loss in our modern world. I hope this supplement is helpful to your students. It is also aligned to the CCSS for Reading Informational Text and is offered as a stand alone free item here:

As I mentioned I loved this book! :) It hits on so many issues in the modern classroom and appeals to such a wide audience. It really is a must read!

Please go to my TpT store and download the free preview to see sample pages of all parts of this unit as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!

Product Description:
This unit is designed to be used with some student/instructor interaction. It can also be revised to be used as an independent study for the student. It is written for the 4-6th grade reading level.

This unit works great in a one-on-one setting for homeschool or for a teacher to use as a resource in the classroom for a small group or entire class. The unit is designed so that you can start teaching immediately with little to no preparation on your part. Great time saver!
This unit contains:

• Teacher Packet containing:

  • Detailed daily lesson plans
  • Answer keys
• Student Packet containing:
  • Vocabulary activities for 126 words.
  • Comprehension questions for every chapter.
  • In-depth character studies and writing activities for each section of the novel.
  • Two different non-fiction reading articles and accompanying activity guides that compliment the novel.
  • Four In-depth writing and analysis activities to complete after reading the book.
• An Assessment Packet that contains:
  • Vocabulary quiz with both matching and multiple choice questions.
  • Four Comprehension quizzes that include short answer, multiple choice, and essay writing for use after Parts 1, 2, 5, and the end of the book.
• Common Core Standard Alignment Checklists for grades 4-6.

• An After the Book Activity Packet that can be used with any book.

This unit is aligned with the following Common Core Standards:
RL 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.10, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.10, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 6.10
RI 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.10, 5.1, 5.4, 5.10 6.1, 6.4, 6.10
RF 4.3, 4.4, 5.3, 5.4
W 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.9, 4.10, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5., 5.10, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.9, 6.10
SL 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.6, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.6, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.6,
L 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6

ETA on 8/3/2014: Check out this product and many other wonderful products at the Back to School Linky Bonanza over at Mrs. Beattie's Classroom Blog!