Flash card drills. Math fact tables. Do they matter? With so much to learn is it really necessary to drill the same things over and over again? Well, opinions may vary but I would give a whole-hearted, YES! Simply put, fact mastery makes all the higher level learning smoother. While math is the obvious focal point for memorization, it is useful in every discipline: bible verses, grammar rules, science tables and more.
Education from Kindergarten through graduation involves incremental learning. In many ways, each year is a review of the previous year with exciting expansions in content and application. Understanding the basic system encourages us to instill deep learning in our students. Rote memorization is a foundational tool that allows us to build a terrific academic structure. Now that offers motivation for we teachers, but how do we keep our students attentive and interested?
Learning through play is definitely one possibility. Wonderful books on incorporating games into learning sit in the library waiting to share their secrets. Hopscotch math was a favorite when our children were young. Rolling over-sized diced to get the numbers and hopping out the math fact made for laughter and learning. Old-fashioned board games, hand-held math fact timers and computer programs with spaceships offer diverse ways to prevent boredom in learning. Instilling a love for learning begins with fun in learning. Get all the senses involved as often as possible and get their bodies moving!
Music is a definite aid. Put facts to music or rhyme. Teach silly acrostics to help memorize disconnected pieces of information. ROY G BIV and “My Very Educated Mom Just Taught Us about Neptune” are nonsense words that keep great information accessible. Clapping or other rhythmic motion may keep the attention of a very kinesthetic learner. Very young children have learned the entire genealogy of Christ by putting it to song. The power of music and movement is a great asset in learning. Use the things that speak to your student’s heart and help them take nuggets of knowledge deep into their minds.
Finally, grab every teaching opportunity! Life is learning. Opportunities to practice math facts at the grocery store begin with counting tomatoes in the package and progress to unit pricing and family budgets. Calculating the miles per gallon of gas and the cost for every trip to Wal-Mart may just change your own spending habits—while your student practices multiplication and division. Reading grocery labels, learning new words…even foreign words is possible on nearly every trip. Listen to the interests of your students and look for lessons in those arenas.
As home school parents, we have the potential to design curriculum that fits the hearts of our students. It is a high and holy privilege. Use the opportunities life presents, use the personality and preferences in your home…and enjoy the learning adventure!