Why Are Math Facts Important?

by Laurie Laurendeau on May 6, 2010

Children have been memorizing Math Facts for over a hundred years.  Most of us have vivid memories of flashcards, timed drills, or worksheet after worksheet of Math Facts.  But is it really that necessary?  Some people believe that with calculators and computers at our fingertips, committing Math Facts to memory might be old school.  Math Facts ARE important for children to learn without the aid of electronics.  Not only will it help them solve more complex math problems more quickly, but it will expand their number sense as well.


An Addition or Subtraction Math Fact is a math question such as 3+ 4 or 6-2 that a child should know quickly.  If a child can say the answer within a couple of seconds, this is usually considered mastery of the Fact.


  • Math Facts are important because they form the building blocks for higher-level Math concepts.  Skills such as adding and subtracting larger numbers, telling time, counting money, measurement, long multiplication and division are just a few of the concepts that a child will encounter fairly early in her Math career.  If she has mastered her Math Facts, these concepts will be significantly easier and she will be better equipped to solve them more quickly.  If she is spending a lot of time doing the basic Facts, she is more likely to be confused with the process and get lost in her calculations.
  • By learning her Math Facts, your child will also develop a keen number sense.  This means that she will better understand the relationship between numbers.  For example, it is important for your child to see that 6-2=4 because 2+4=6.  She should also develop an understanding of how far numbers are away from the nearest tens, which will aid in such skills as estimating and rounding.
  • It is important that your child moves from counting strategies to automaticity (rapid recall) of her Math Facts.  Your child will soon be using Math Facts as a tool to solve more difficult Math questions.  If she must count to find the answer every time she needs to add two numbers, it will take her a much longer time to get to the final answer.  She will focus all her attention on the basic calculation instead of the higher-level concept that is involved in solving the problem.  Mastering her Math Facts will result in much faster computing.
  • As your child moves into upper grades, she is going to come across longer tests to check her understanding of various concepts.  If she does not have her Math Facts committed to memory, she will spend a disproportionate amount of time figuring out the smaller calculations, and she will risk not completing the test.  This can affect her performance in not only Math class, but in other subjects such as Science and Geography as well.
  • If your child is struggling with recalling her basic Math Facts each day, she may lose confidence in her Math abilities.  Sometimes, this can lead to a loss of interest or effort in Math.  Children need all the confidence boosters they can get, especially in a subject like Math where many of them have already developed a mental block.
  • Independent research proves the need and importance for students to master their Math Facts. Not only did they discover that mastering the Math Facts aids in higher-level Math, but they also discovered actual shifts in brain patterns as Math Facts were learned!  Here are a few quotes from the experts:
    • Educators and Cognitive Psychologists agree that the “ability to recall basic math facts fluently is necessary for students to attain higher-order math skills” (Whitehurst, 2003).
    • “Recent research in cognitive science, using MRI’s, has revealed the actual shift in brain activation patterns as untrained math facts are learned” (Delazer et al., 2003).
    • Instruction and practice cause math fact processing to move from a quantitative area of the brain to one related to automatic retrieval” (Dehaene, 2003).
  • What about the calculator and computer argument? Yes, calculators and computers play an important role in Math education today, but it is still important for a child to know her Math Facts to be able to do mental computation.  She will not always have a computer nearby, and once she knows her Math Facts, she will find that doing it mentally is a lot faster.  So, do your child a favor – help her master her Math Facts!

Watch next week for more information about Math Facts!


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