Math Fact Fluency with Danna Rodebush

When you hear the words ‘multiplication facts,’ what is your first thought? If it’s similar to many of the comments I’ve read in math teacher FB groups, it might be something like,  ‘oh my gosh, kids don’t know their facts, ‘ or ‘my students can’t find least common multiple because they don’t know their multiplication facts’ or something along those lines.

Today we’ll be talking to Danna Rodebush all about strategies to improve math fact fluency.

Topics Discussed

  • What is math fact fluency?
  • Why are math facts and fluency important?
  • Why Danna is passionate about this topic
  • How teachers can improve math fact fluency in their classrooms

Connect with today’s guest:

Register for Danna’s Free Masterclass at!

 IG Handle – @teachertechstudio

Related Episodes

  • Check out episode 9 to hear more about math facts and memorization

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Ellie’s resources can be found on her website or on TPT.


Ellie 0:00

When you hear the words multiplication facts, what is your first thought? If it's similar to many of the comments I've read in math teacher Facebook groups, it might be something like, oh my gosh, kids just don't know their facts. Or my students can't find least common multiple because they don't know their multiplication facts or something along those lines. Welcome to the teaching Toolbox Podcast. I'm Ellie, one of your hosts, and I'm here with Brittany.

Brittany 0:28

Hello, everyone.

And today we have a special guest for you. If you remember back in episode nine on study skills, we discussed how math facts and memorization were making a comeback in schools. Well, our guest today has a passion for just this topic. Deanna Rhoda Bush is a former elementary classroom teacher and the founder of teacher tech studio and southern schoolhouse, the creator of math simplified, and the host of the upper elementary simplified podcast. She helps upper elementary math teachers provide engaging and meaningful math instruction while cutting down on their planning time. She believes a structured guided math routine is the key to student engagement, comprehension and retention. And that all math skills rely on basic fact fluency and vocabulary comprehension. She's here with us today to talk all about math fact fluency in the upper elementary or middle school classroom. Welcome, Danna.

Danna 1:27

Hello, ladies, thank you so much for having me today. I am super excited to be here. And to get to talk to you and your listeners about one of my favorite classroom topics.

Brittany 1:39

Let's go ahead and start out with what we mean by math Fact Fluency. So we're all working from the same definition. What is math Fact Fluency to you, Danna, what makes a student or person fluent in their math facts?

Danna 1:54

Math Fact Fluency to me is the automatic recall of basic math facts without conscious effort. This can mean any of the four basic math operations so addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. While obviously it is super important to have automatic recall with addition and subtraction. As upper elementary and middle school teachers, we are more experienced with the lack of multiplication Fact Fluency. So mastery refers to having great skill at something or total dominance over something. If you are fluent in a language, you have mastery of the language. So when I describe multiplication fact, fluency, I always say that there are three characteristics that a student must have to be considered fluent or mastered with a single multiplication fact. Number one is that the product can be accurately recalled within five seconds if they recall a product quickly, but it isn't correct. Or if they recall a correct product, but it takes longer than five seconds. This is not mastery. And this means that they should practice with that specific fact to become fluent with that fact. The second characteristic of math back mastery is that in that five second recall, the product is pulled from memory, and not from using counting strategies. This includes skip counting, and nine strokes. And then the third characteristic of math VacMaster, eight builds on the first two even further, in that every math fact one through 12 is recalled within five seconds from memory. This means that not only does the student recall from memory within five seconds, that seven times nine equals 63. But also that nine times seven equals 63. So they are familiar with and are fluent with both facts. It's kind of strange, but for some reason, seven times nine looks different than nine times seven, sometimes

Brittany 4:14

my daughter and I were just talking about fluency the other day in relation to sign language, but I think mastery is also when you can just think in those other languages, it becomes natural for you to just see numbers, and to think about Spanish words. And to see the signs in sign language. It's just an innate thing in your brain that you're just seeing it as you say it. So you just see seven times nine, and 63 just pops right there.

Danna 4:48

Absolutely, yes, yes.

Ellie 4:50

So why do you think math facts and fluency are so important?

So lack of fluency with multiplication facts has really A become a roadblock for students causing them to struggle with higher level math, it's not that they lack the ability to reach a solution, it's that they are using inefficient strategies to reach a solution. So if they are not pulling products from memory, but instead they're using counting strategies, this doesn't mean that they don't know seven times on a 63. Or they can't figure out that seven times 963, it just means that they need to practice and commit to memory, seven times nine equals 63. So that they can automatically recall the fact when they need it for a higher level expression, like 287 times 39. So again, I have three reasons that I think multiplication fluency is important and really must be memorized to be considered mastered. And they are number one, is to relieve the frustration that is sure to build if they don't have the facts memorized. And what I mean by this is that when a student is trying to solve a higher level math expression, like 287 times 39, and he has to stop in the middle of the algorithm to find the product of seven times nine, and then again, with nine times eight, and so on, he is going to get distracted in the process. And this causes frustration, because it ends up taking him so much longer to reach the final product than if he was able to recall those products quickly from memory.

I've seen this idea being compared to decoding words, when you're reading, you know, if a student has to spend so much time decoding every single word, then the comprehension of that text is lost. So it's very, very similar idea.

Danna 6:56

Exactly. I have often compared multiplication fact, fluency, with reading comprehension with either decoding or vocabulary comprehension.

Ellie 7:07

And you know, it's funny, most teachers would not say, Oh, it's okay, if it takes them a long time to tell us what those sounds are, or if they can't read that very well. But when it comes to math, sometimes like, well, you know, it's okay, if we're not great at math, or it's okay, if it takes you a longer time. And we don't expect that same level of memorization that we would expect in reading.

Danna 7:29

Absolutely, absolutely. And so the second reason that students should have math facts memorized is to help them be more efficient in solving those higher level math expressions. They don't have to spend several minutes using counting strategies to figure out the product of seven times nine and nine times eight. Instead, they can quickly recall these products so that they can move on and the algorithm.

Brittany 7:55

Yeah, I've read comments from many teachers talking about how long it takes for students to find the least common multiple, just to add or subtract fractions, or the know the related division facts to simplify fractions.

Danna 8:08

Absolutely. I have seen that so many times with my students. And then number three, is to help them with the accuracy in their calculations. So as I mentioned before, when students have to stop in the middle of the algorithm, when they are solving a higher level math expression, they are more likely to get distracted and miss a step in the process, leading to an incorrect solution. So not only does this distraction lead to frustration and inefficiency, but it also leads to inaccuracy.

Brittany 8:44

Another thing that I think is an issue is not just the skip counting and the the little you know, strategies that kids have. But both of my children learned their math facts learned in quotation marks their math facts at a school that taught them songs to learn their math facts. And so like the fours were like to Happy birthday, I think and it was like four 816 2420 a 32. My two children who are now in their 20s Still don't know their math facts. And it drives me nuts. Even my 23 year old daughter sings the song drives me crazy. So yeah, even things like that can just be crazy little crutches for kids, and they're not really learning,

Danna 9:41

right? Yes, it's important for them to have the concept of multiplication and what is actually happening mathematically. But there comes a point to where we have to just memorize. We have to memorize the fact Yes, I want you to understand what three groups Have two is, but at some point, we just have to know three times two is six, right?


Like I read this somewhere not too long ago, again, it was a math teacher group. And they were talking about the lower grades second, third, maybe fourth our times for that conceptual understanding and the explanations in that way. But by the time they get to fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and beyond, they need to know them so that they can function efficiently.


Absolutely, totally 100%. Agree.


So why are you passionate about this math fact fluency issue?


So when I was in the classroom, I taught fifth grade. And from my very first year, I was absolutely shocked at how many students would come to me as fifth graders not knowing their basic multiplication facts. When I was an elementary student several years ago, memorizing math facts was just a normal part of the learning process. And somewhere along the way, this crucial element of our education system just disappeared, among other things. So sadly, I would see those same kids struggle with the higher level math that I was trying to teach them, how can they be expected to solve 287 times 39? If they don't know nine times seven, or nine times a buy memory? Sure, they can use counting strategies to find the product. But while they are using those strategies, they are also getting distracted by where they were at in the process of the algorithm. This leads to frustration in accuracy and efficiency, which all leads to hating math.


Yeah, we don't want that.


Exactly, exactly. So that is why I am now on a mission to encourage teachers to bring back that emphasis on multiplication Fact Fluency.


I think a lot of teachers out there are starting to agree with you. So what can they do to help improve the Fact Fluency with their students?


So number one is definitely to encourage memorization through repetition. It's a process that begins with explaining to your students the why behind memorization, and builds excitement by letting them know how much easier and even more fun math is going to be. When they have their multiplication facts memorized. They're no longer going to have to spend 10 minutes solving one problem as I have seen so many times in the past, they're not going to get frustrated or intimidated by higher level math expressions, and they are going to be more accurate and efficient with their solutions. Now, there are some great computer practice programs available for teachers. But I want to encourage teachers not to fall into the belief that these programs are accurately assessing mastery and tracking mastery. They are really only good for practicing fluency. I explain a little bit more about this in my free workshop all about creating a system in your classroom to build multiplication Fact Fluency. In this workshop, I give you the tools you need to get a fluency building program up and running in your classroom. It's a 25 minute quick pre recorded video workshop that you can get instant access to when you sign up and you can find it at teacher tech forward slash masterclass. I would love to invite your audience to come check it out so that they can help their students build a positive relationship with math.


That sounds fantastic. We'll put the link to the masterclass in our show notes so everyone can check it out.


Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.


Well, I'm so glad we got the chance to have you here with us today. Danna. You've given us some great things to think about, and I'm sure there'll be more awesome tips in the masterclass.


Thank you both so much for having me. I have truly enjoyed speaking with you both, and getting to share one of my passion topics with your audience.


All right, so remember, head over and register for danas free masterclass at http s. colon, forward slash forward slash teacher tech For slash masterclass, we hope this episode gave you a few new ideas you can add to this aspect of your teaching toolbox. See you next time.


Have a great day.

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