Basic Fact Fluency & Picking Apart Those Pesky Word Problems

Problem #1: My 3rd and 4th grade
students are still using their fingers, the 100s chart, or number line to add
even the most basic addition problems {ex. 3 + 4}

Since the beginning of this school year, I’ve noticed that my
students can’t quickly solve basic addition problems with sums up to 20 and
their corresponding subtraction facts while they are trying to solve 2-3 digit
addition/subtraction problems. I could be wrong, but I don’t think students in
the 3rd and 4th grades should still be counting on their
fingers or running to the hundreds chart to solve 8-3. Plus, it takes them an
extremely long time to complete one larger problem. To help them out, I decided to
make up some 5-10 minute fun daily activities we can work on to gain some fluency
with basic facts. Since I only have 30 minutes with my lower students, every
minute counts.

For this activity packet, I typed up flashcards for every
single addition fact {stopped at the 11’s facts} and their corresponding
subtraction facts, and made up different sorting activities for them {sum of
___, difference of ___, less than/greater than/equal to ____}. Here is a picture
of the sorting activity we’ve been working on. We are doing addition facts
first, and once they have those down, I’ll add the subtraction facts.

We call this activity “Beat The Clock.” The kids love it!
They are given all the addition fact cards and are timed while they sort them. I have found it is much easier to encourage teamwork versus against
each other. The “loser” tends to get discouraged, which is the last thing they
need when they already struggle. I just tell them that the opponent is the
CLOCK {hence, “beat the clock”}.

While they sort, I time them and update them every minute
that goes by. It’s so fun to watch them scramble around to try to beat their previous time! We record their time on the anchor chart each time they play. The
hope is for their time to go down (increased fluency), and plus I can tie in time {minutes/seconds} and a
line graph lesson to show them their progress! I don’t do this activity every single day, but every once in a while so they don’t get sick of it.

Problem #2: Word Problems might as well be written in
Spanish.
Another thing my students struggle with is interpreting word
problems. In class, we brainstormed all the different words for “ADDITION” you might
hear in a word problem and I wrote them down on my “+ sign” poster board {I can’t take credit for this idea, I saw it on Pinterest a long time time, but I can’t find the original source}. We
also did the same thing for subtraction.

Using dry/erase boards and the word problem flashcards, I
read aloud a problem, stopping after each important piece of information. When I
stop, the students know they need to write the something down. I also ask
them to write down the “CLUE WORDS” they hear that helps them know what operation to
use {+ or -}. Once I am completely done reading, they answer the problem and we
discuss it.

After doing a few of these together, I just give each student a word problem card, and they have to explain their thinking to me whenever they are finished. So far, I have seen a tremendous improvement in their
response speed for basic facts, and they are starting to really get the hang of
word problem language and thinking through the problem on their own. The good
thing about these activities is that they are super easy to make for your
students and they don’t take up to much math time. The sorting activities also work great for those few extra minutes left in class for those early finishers.

If you don’t want to make up the flashcards, word problems, and sorting
activities on your own, you can download my Addition and Subtraction Jumbo Pack at my TPT store.

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