During off-times, at a long stoplight or in grocery store line, when the kids are restless and ready to argue for the sake of argument, I invite them to play the numbers game.
“Can you tell me how to get to twelve?”
My five year old begins, “You could take two fives and add a two.”
“Take sixty and divide it into five parts,” my nearly-seven year old says.
“You could do two tens and then take away a five and a three,” my younger son adds.
Eventually we run out of options and they begin naming numbers. It’s a simple game that builds up computational fluency, flexible thinking and number sense. I never say, “Can you tell me the transitive properties of numbers?” However, they are understanding that they can play with numbers.
I didn’t learn the rules of baseball by filling out a packet on baseball facts. Nobody held out a flash card where, in isolation, I recited someone else’s definition of the Infield Fly Rule. I didn’t memorize the rules of balls, strikes, and how to get someone out through a catechism of recitation.
Instead, I played baseball.
The best way for children to build mathematical fluency is through conversation. For more ideas on discussion-based math, check out these posts:
Learning the Math Facts
For more help with learning and practicing the basic arithmetic facts, try these tips and math games: