Part of successful math understanding is knowing the massive amounts of vocabulary that goes with it.
Having little word rhymes and mnemonics also helps students to remember all those little tidbits until students have them fully ingrained.
And as most teachers know, colorful visuals – such as anchor charts and posters – can solidify that knowledge.
I remember as a child going Math Mad Minutes to learn my multiplication facts.
Luckily, number sense math made sense for me a logical and concrete learner (don’t ask me to do anything with 3-dimensional shapes though).
It seems the only way we were taught how to do multiplication was via rote memorization only.
But today there are so many more ways for students of all varying types of learners to get to that same place.
While I personally whole-heartedly feel that rote memorization should be done at some point and to some extent (I have a 24-year old who still struggles with her times tables and loathes math as a result of not having that foundation), students that are just beginning in new math concepts should be able to explore them and have fun with it!
Some Math Instruction Tricks
While I won’t be able to cover ALL the helpful math tips and tricks I’ve learned at the elementary level, here are a few of my favorites.
The 9s Multiplication Trick
FYI – I did not know about this tip until I was a 3rd grade educator! No one had ever shown me how to do this!
It is actually pretty simple once you understand how to do it.
Start with putting both your hands in front of you, fingers facing the ceiling, palms facing away from you.
Know your 9s multiplication problem: for our example it will be 9×3
Using your fingers in a row from 1-10, count over 3 and put that finger down.
Now, the number of fingers to the left of the finger you put down is your tens column, while everything else to the right of it is your ones column.
So 2 tens + 7 ones = 27.
The Pac-Man number comparison trick
This one is super helpful for the littles who are just learning greater than/less than number comparisons.
You can use a Pac-Man (though some kids this age might not understand who that is – haha!), an alligator, or even an ice cream cone.
For our example, we have an 8 and a 3 to place on either side of a greater than [>] symbol.
I always tell students to make a Pac-Man out of the symbol, or draw teeth on the symbol, or even make an ice cream cone with ice cream on the end.
Once they draw, they can visually see which way to place the numbers because Pac-Man, the alligator, and the kid who wants the ice cream will always point towards the bigger number – more for them to eat.
Students love to be able to choose which version they like the best – and will probably never forget this tidbit.
Sideways lined paper for computation problems
I had never thought of this one either until a student actually suggested it.
When students are practicing 2 digit computations and larger, have them turn a piece of lined notebook paper sideways in order to line up the numbers correctly for place value.
Makes it so much easier for them to see the columns and perform the operations.
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Telling Time Trick
This one always seemed to be helpful to first graders when they were learning how to tell time to the minute.
Quite simply, when we were practicing together as a group on the carpet, I would give them a time (for example: 2:20) and the first step was to find the short hand (because she is “completely closer to the center of the clock”) and see where she is.
If she is between two numbers, we always go BACK.
We write down the first part of our time, then count the minutes by counting by 5s.
Telling time can be tricky for new learners, but once that lightbulb goes on, they will know it forever.
9 Elementary Math Posters
Having some little rhymes that go with your math tips and tricks toolbox is also super useful!
Some students may be more auditory than kinesthetic.
Thanks to the help from some readers here at Organized Classroom, we were able to compile a list of some of their favorites they use in the classroom and I whipped up some posters for all to use!
Download your free pack of elementary math posters below!
What are your best tips and tricks for elementary math instruction: gallon man, long division “answer goes on top of the house,” or something else? We would love to hear them too!
Thanks for sharing!