Article: Back to School Shopping for Grades 3-6

Posted on August 20, 2010

Back to School Shopping: Remember the Flash Cards
by Sarah Reaves White

On the last weekend before most schools start classes, parents and students are busy loading up on school supplies: new backpacks, items from the school's list of grade level supplies, and new clothes (or uniforms). But there is one very important item that will not be on the list for grades 3-6, and that is a pack of flash cards.

Why flash cards? Flash cards are important because just as you helped your child learn the sounds that each letter makes, you must make sure that he or she is just as fluent in basic math facts. Some parents might ask: "Can't they learn this after being in class at least six hours a day for nine months? They have a very good teacher. Why do I have to get involved?"

The real answer is rarely given by the school. Some kids will easily learn the facts and therefore breeze through math lessons and homework assignments. Other students, just as intelligent, will have difficulty remembering the basic relationships that numbers have to each other. Yet without fluency, the student will be as handicapped in learning math as the student who cannot remember what sound each letter or group of letters makes when trying to understand the words on a page. For the kid who has difficulty remembering these facts, a caring parent can make a tremendous difference. A student who is fluent in math facts will be a confident math student, and this is really important for success in school.

But wait! The cards must be triangular! Yes, triangular. For addition and subtraction the cards will have a number in each of two angles, and the sum will be in the third angle. This way, by covering up one angle, both addition and subtraction facts can be practiced. The same will be true of the multiplication fact cards. They can be made into division fact cards by covering up one of the smaller numbers. Confused? Haven't used these terms in a very long time? The directions are on the back of the set. The cards can be found at teachers' supply stores.

Does the concerned parent have to sit down and teach math facts for an hour each night? Absolutely not! Fifteen minutes a day can usually solve the problem. Car pool is a great time to practice. Or, if the siblings are close in age, get out the change jar and reward each correct answer with a coin. Excitement builds as the coins add up. Only one thing must be remembered. Just like the grownups, children forget facts. A student who knew seven times eight in September may have trouble remembering it in October and even in April.

Buy the cards. Practice the facts. Strengthen the child. Open the door to a positive attitude toward mathematics. Watch the child feel confident.

**In 2010, Sarah Reaves White was the George Bannerman Dealey Montessori School/International Academy's Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching elementary students for 29 years.