A recent study (http://www.redding.com/lifestyle/peek-into-brain-shows-how-kids-learn-math-skills) put brain scanners on children and watched how their brains learned Math. While Bill Gates is probably drooling at the thought, the study did confirm what many have long assumed- drilling students on math facts will pay off. “If your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.”

Knowing this information, one would assume the 21st century standards of college and career readiness would place a premium on memorizing math facts, but that is not the case. In fact, Common Core Math actually demands less fact memorization than the standards they replaced. Take Common Core Standards in NY, please just take them 🙂 (Be forewarned, fluency and memorization are two separate ideas. A child can fluently subtract 400-388, but can’t do it from memory). Look at the first grade Math standards that are related to facts:

  • Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).

In second grade, students are finally asked to memorize, but only addition facts with no mention of subtraction:

  • Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. (those listed in first grade) By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.

At least in the old standards, Math facts were introduced in grade 1 and were strengthened in grade two. The Common Core Math Standards never require a student to memorize subtraction facts and that simply doesn’t add up (or in this case- subtract down).

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