Learning Number Facts in Your Relief Teaching Classroom

Number Facts

There is nothing more basic than number facts.

Every student needs to know them and every relief teacher should have this in their repertoire.

This is one activity that you should use on every one of your relief teaching days.

You can cater for any class and any student.

Knowing number facts is a prerequisite to math success.

I admit educationists dropped the ball for a few years and number facts lost favour with the educational thinking of the day.


But now, knowing number facts is back in vogue.

number facts


Why number facts?

We have all heard of the "basics" and the three Rs (r)eadin' w(r)iting' and a(r)ithmetic. It was the catch cry of a generation. My generation in fact. There was a commonly held belief that the basics were the WHOLE reason for being at school.

In a time when calculators were yet invented and computers were not even on the radar, number facts were essential for every day living. It was difficult to get by without a sound knowledge of number facts.

Number facts aren't, and probably never were, the WHOLE, but they were, and I would argue still are significant parts of a very big WHOLE.

The essence of mathematical success is knowing stuff and applying stuff involving numbers and other stuff. There are heaps of really significant facts that make the application of mathematical knowledge noticeable easier.

That is where number facts sit.

Being good at number facts presides in the realm of ,"if you know this, other stuff is easier."

Number facts is a tapestry of interconnected number relationships

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Number Facts sequence

First, children need to understand the meanings supporting the number facts, as well as how the facts are inter-related.

For example

4 + 5 = 9 so 4 + 6 = 10 (1 more):

5 + 8 = 13 hence 15 + 8 = 23 (10 more);

7 + 9 = 16 hence 9 + 7 = 16

There are an infinite number of relationships to explore - and explore you should.

Second, the facts need to be available immediately.

Learning Number Facts

Teaching Number Facts has two distinct stages

1. A development stage to master the patterns and relationships and

2. A repetitive stage, where numbers facts are practised and immediate recall is mastered.

It simple not enough to use one strategy without the other.

Understanding relationships (stage 1) develops a deeper understanding but repetition (stage 2) develops automaticity.

With automaticity comes the confidence.

Organisation of Number Facts

1. Family patterns. For example - 3 + 4 = 7; 4 + 3 = 7; 7 - 4 = 3; 7 - 3 = 4

2. Number patterns. Doubles (e.g. 8+8); near doubles (8+7), number+1 (6+1), number+2 (6+2), number+9 (6+9=6+10-1); number+10 (6+10);etc.

3. Number properties. Use of commutative, associative, and distributive properties.

4. Analytical approach. Build facts for a number. 4+1=5 1+4=5 2+3=5 3+2=5

5. The Grid approach.

Number Facts Teaching Order.

For multiplication it is best to start with 2x, 5x, before 3x, 4x, 6, and 9x.

The best options is to proceed in groups (2x, 4x, 8x,), (3x, 6x, 9x), (5x, 10x) so that kids can explore the relationship that exists.

The 7x number facts exist by themselves with little relationship to the other facts.

Number Facts and Practice

Automaticity is knowing something so well that you don't consciously have to work out strategies.

For example, have you ever driven a car and changed gears without realising.

Automaticity gives confidence. Superior athletes require it. Footballers automatically pass footballs without thinking about it. Golfers swing their clubs without consciously considering how. Grandma knits with lightening speed without thinking, "Up and over and under and off."

The reason for learning number facts to a level of automatic recall is the time saved in having to reconstruct a number relationship we need to use.

The best strategy is to put numbers facts in the automatic basket is to;

1. Learn

2. Memorise

3. Drill

Drilling is a significant strategy and should be sharp, concise and regular.

The essence of this activity is that it is

  • a daily activity
  • quick and easy to set up
  • challenges students at a personal level

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