Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mastering Math Facts

Do your students know their times tables yet? Every year, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers face the fact that their incoming students haven't mastered their basic math facts.

If you're like me, you struggle with what to do about the Times Table Dilemma: Do we waste valuable class time teaching something they should already know? Or do we recognize that if they don't know their times tables, they are mathematically "stuck." It's not our job to teach them this stuff, right? But if we don't, we know they are going to struggle later.

As a 5th grade teacher with 28 years of experience, I've wrestled with this dilemma many times. And I always come to the unavoidable conclusion that time spent mastering math facts now will save many hours of frustration later. Because of this, I developed an easy system for teaching math facts in a fun way.

I love to tell my class my own story about how I learned the importance of mastering math facts. I myself was one of those kids who refused to learn her times tables in 4th grade. My parents found out during a Parent-Teacher conference, and they asked me why I wouldn't learn them. I'm pretty sure I said something to the effect that learning times tables was dumb and boring. I certainly remember feeling that way! My parents told me that it didn't matter how I felt about it - I would be drilling on times tables every night until I knew them! When I figured out they were serious, I buckled down and learned them in a short time. You know what happened? Amazingly, I realized that math really was much easier when you knew your math facts! I probably didn't admit it to my teachers and parents at the time, but they, in their infinite wisdom, were actually right!

Times have changed in some ways, but not in others. Kids still need to know their times tables, but learning them doesn't have to be boring. There are all kinds of games, computer software packages, and Internet websites to help. Check out the Multiplication page on my site for some free materials and great websites.

Over the years I've developed a motivational system that has proven very effective in helping kids master their times tables. I call it the Mastering Math Facts System, and since I've been using it, 100% of my class masters their times tables each year. And when they do, I see a big jump in their overall math proficiency. A few years ago, one of my 4th graders saw his score on the state math test and announced to the class, "Mrs. Candler is a genius! She said that if I would learn my times tables I would do well in math, and she was right!" As a teacher, I live for those priceless moments!

So last spring I compiled all the strategies, games, and activities into one big ebook: Mastering Math Facts: Multiplication and Division. I had a number of teachers field test the activities, and their students achieved the same level of success that I had observed. Best of all, their students enjoyed learning their times tables!

Then teachers began emailing me to see if I had some resources for addition and subtraction, so I created the Addition and Subtraction Add-on book for them. It's not as complete as Mastering Math Facts, so it's designed as an "add-on" rather than a complete book.

Why share this information now? Because I've found that it's best to start the Mastering Math Facts system within the first few weeks of the year. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes a day and the activities are fun. The benefit of starting now is that your students will be proficient in the basics when you teach your multiplication, division, and fraction units later in the year.

Because I think that now is the right time to start, I'm offering a special on Mastering Math Facts. If you buy Mastering Math Facts book for $21.95, you can get the Addition and Subtraction Add-on book (normally $6) for free.

But there's only one way to get both books for the price of one:
  • Order the Mastering Math Facts Combo which is $25.95.
  • Enter "mmfcombo" into the discount code box and update the cart.
  • The discount will take off $4.00 which makes the Combo price $21.95, the regular price of Mastering Math Facts.
  • This special is for a limited time only, so you'll need take advantage of it now if you want both books for the price of one.
If you have use the Mastering Math Facts system, I invite you to post your comments and experiences below. Feel free to share other resources for teaching times tables, as well. Good luck!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

T.G.I. Facebook

When I set up a page for Teaching Resources on Facebook last month, I had no idea what a blessing it would turn out to be for me personally. I figured it would be a great way for me to send out quick updates about new materials I added to the Teaching Resources site. But I what I didn't anticipate was how Facebook would allow me to interact with others and ask for advice myself!

Every year in the classroom is different, and every year I face new challenges, just like other classroom teachers. Last week I posted two messages about areas where I needed help, and both times I received dozens of responses in a matter of hours! The truly wonderful thing about this was that not only was I getting help, everyone who visited the page could benefit from the responses. One question was about needing some great math tutorial sites and the other was about how to teach kids about 9/11. Both questions resulted in some really useful information and websites.

I've also noticed that other teachers are posting questions about their own classrooms, and teachers who have experience with these issues are responding. It's so uplifting to me to see these exchanges, and I'm very grateful to the teachers who have signed up as "fans" of the site. Where can I sign up to be a fan of all the fans? :-)

For several years I've been setting aside a part of my Power Pack eBook earnings to support teachers and classrooms. I've donated some of the money to Donors Choose projects, and now I'm also going to start sharing it with Facebook fans of the Teaching Resources site. Every Friday I will give away a free Power Pack to one Facebook fan, and I'll also give a free Power Pack to the person who referred them to my site! On the last Friday of each month, I'll also give away two $25 gift cards. To learn more about the T.G.I. Facebook Freebie giveaway, go to You can sign up as a Facebook fan by going to

Thanks to those of you who have been participating in the exchange of ideas and information on Facebook. You have blessed my life, and I'm happy to share some of my good fortune with you!