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FlashMaster for Math Facts

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Math facts are a fact of life for math students. Children in the 4th and 5th grades are expected to know the multiplication facts through 12×12 (and the corresponding division facts). Being able to easily and quickly recall these rote facts makes the larger problems and bigger numbers they use less onerous. If the problem is 345×67, and I know the multiplication facts, this problem will not be nearly as difficult for me. On the other hand, if I have to stop at each step to solve for the smaller products (7×5), then (7×4), then (7×3), this problem is going to feel overwhelming and be quite time consuming. So, the more efficient students can be with the small facts, the easier time they’ll have with the harder/larger problems. Getting bogged down in the simple arithmetic of their math is not where most of their effort should be spent. We want math students spending most of their time problem solving and improving their critical thinking skills. Learning something new, something hard, or having to puzzle over a particularly challenging problem: these are the areas that will help develop strong mathematical thinkers.

For the majority of students, simple practice and repetition will be enough to master the facts. Useful strategies might be flashcards, computer programs, or verbal practice. 10-15 minutes per day is usually sufficient (little and often).

Another tool is the FlashMaster, a hand held computer that only does math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). It is more interactive and fun than many other strategies and it may motivate a struggling learner. It has a variety of buttons in order to customize the choices, but it is simple to operate. The student or parent can program it to set a time limit or no time limit, to do the facts in order or mixed, to repeat missed problems or not; these are a few of the choices. This device has no bells or whistles; the only reward is seeing that they did get the correct answer. For many students, the FlashMaster is fun and engaging and it helps them to spend the time they need practicing.

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