Math Mistake: Memorizing Math Facts Too Early

Are you making this HUGE mistake when you are helping your child learn math?

We think that kids need to memorize all their math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) so that they will be able to tackle more complex math problems.

girls doing math 

However, let me share with you WHY we should not put our focus on memorizing math facts.

Today let’s talk about why it's so important to not focus on kids memorizing algorithms (procedures & steps) and math facts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that kids should never have to memorize math facts. Actually, I think it is a powerful tool that many kids need to learn (eventually).

However, I’m saying that it's not the place to start. We first want to help kids build a strong math foundation. We want kids to have a strong number sense before they start memorizing.


Let me give you an example.

Today I had a third-grade student in my class who knows all of her addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. She knows them all and knows them well.

However, it was very evident today that she does not have a strong number sense.

Today I gave the class a Story Math problem that was a division problem. The twist was this division problem had a remainder.

Here is the Story:

Brewer was going to the movies. He needed to buy tickets and tickets were $4 each. He had $26 and wanted to know how many tickets he could buy for $26?

Through problem-solving, most of the kids in my class were able to draw pictures and figure it out.

However, the little girl (who knows all her division and multiplication facts) was unable to figure it out.

She looked at the problem and said, “Well, you can't divide 26 by four. You can’t do it.”

I asked her if there was another way to figure it out. I even suggested she draw a picture. She stared at me blankly. Memorizing math facts actually hindered her ability to think and problem-solve to try to figure out another way.

She is not flexible with her thinking, thus unable to problem-solve outside of her math-fact bubble.

boy frustrated with math

Why Cognitive Guided Instruction Rocks!

This is exactly why we want to start with CGI or cognitive guided instruction instead of memorizing math facts. By allowing kids to think and problem-solve, we are helping kids to think flexibly about numbers. It encourages them to deconstruct numbers and put them back together in other ways.

It is absolutely amazing the type of math thinking kids can do when they don’t have the restraints of memorizing math facts and steps to solving problems.

Please, do not put a ton of focus and emphasis on teaching your young kids to memorize their math facts. That will come with time. Many kids will start to memorize them naturally as they develop a strong number sense and number connection. Now is not the time to put a lot of focus on memorizing.


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