Math Facts: Mastering Through Games

By: Dallan Hunt

Math facts: What are they and why are they important?

There are four basic operations that nearly all of math is built upon: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Without these, mathematics as we know it would not exist. We wouldn’t be able to do our taxes, design computer programs or build cars.

It seems strange to admit, but we rely on adding and subtracting, as well as multiplying and dividing, every single day—they are the oxygen that mathematics breathes. And this means that in order to improve in math, a successful student needs to master these four basic math facts.

The question, then, is how?

Math Fact Fluency

Understanding vs. memorizing. Do we need both?

Consider a student who can quickly recall math facts with precise accuracy and lightning speed. Does this mean they will have the critical thinking skills to find creative solutions to real math problems? Not at all.

Now consider a student whose recall of math facts is slow. Does this mean they lack the critical thinking skills to find creative solutions to real math problems? Not at all! But would it help them if they could recall the math facts more quickly and accurately? Of course!

The point is that quick recall of math facts is by no means the essence of mathematics, and it doesn’t necessarily make kids strong in math. But at the same time, it is certainly helpful. After all, students who can quickly recall math facts can spend more time engaged in problem solving, allowing them to focus on reasoning and critical thinking.

So, to help students better focus their energy on problem solving itself, let’s look at how you can help your child master math facts! (Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a teacher to help your child with this skill!)

Where should you start?

Typically, there are certain grade levels where different math facts are taught and mastered:

  • Addition and subtraction facts are focused on in grades 1-2
  • Multiplication and division are focused on in grades 3-4

These are only general guidelines, so you can also reach out to your child’s school teacher to see what math facts they are focusing on. And then based on your child’s grade level, these guidelines can help you to decide which ones to start on.

In general, it is important for your child to first understand what math facts are, before trying to memorize them. For example, if a student understands multiplication, they can go from 5 groups of 8 to 6 groups of 8, by simply adding 1 more group of 8:

5 groups of 8 = 5x8 = 40

To find 6 groups of 8 (6x8) a student can take 5 groups of 8 (40) and add one more group of 8. 6 groups of 8 = 40 + 8 = 48.

These steps show why 6 groups of 8 is 48, and understanding this is important before simply memorizing that 6x8 is 48. Once students understand math facts, they can work toward memorization.

Below are different strategies to help your child memorize math facts!

Tips and strategies for mastering math facts

One of the strategies often presented for mastering math facts is flash cards. Flash cards involve taking a notecard and on one side writing the math fact (for example, 6x8). Then on the other side, writing the answer (48). Flash cards are effective because students can easily check if their answer is correct or not.

Tip: When you use flashcards, we recommend having your child make the flashcards themselves, rather than just buying pre-made cards. When your child writes out the math facts themselves, it helps with memory and recall!

For students who are exceptionally motivated, flash cards may be satisfying, but for others it won’t. To really entice students, check out these games to play. Your child will be mastering each of the four basic operations without even knowing it (shh … don’t tell them)!

Addition Games


Cars are laid face-up in rows. Each round, the first player decides which card to turn upside down, while the other player chooses which card to turn over. Keep a running tally of selected cards, and win by adding exactly to 31, or tricking the other player to go over!

Click here to learn how to play Thirty-One.


Cribbage, or sometimes called just Crib, is a great game for everyone—both young and old. It adds the appeal of a card game, along with important math skills, such as skip counting, counting on and adding. You and your child will be learning math without knowing it, as you try to be the first to score enough points to reach the end first!

Click here to learn how to play Cribbage.

Subtraction Games

Subtraction Tiles

All you need are numbered tiles and a grid of numbers, all printable and ready to go! Pick up a tile and place it across two adjacent numbers on the grid (if you can find them), which subtract to the number on the tile. Take turns and be the last player to place a tile correctly, and you win!

Click here to learn how to play Subtraction Tiles.

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We'd love to talk with you about how we can help your child reach his or her individual goals!

Subtraction Salute

If you think you can’t practice subtraction by holding a playing card up to your forehead without looking at it, then think again. This game practices addition and subtraction, and will get you laughing in no time!

Click here to learn how to play Subtraction Salute.

Multiplication Games

Multiplication War

Enjoy the classic card game War, but with the spin of multiplication! Deal the entire deck to all the players. Each player puts down 2 cards and multiplies them, and the player with the higher or lower answer (decide ahead of time) gets to collect all the face-down cards. In the case of tie, each player draws another 2 cards and goes again, to see who wins all the face-down cards. Collect the most cards to win!

Click here to learn how to play Multiplication War.

Damult Dice

Each player rolls 3 dice, then chooses 2 and adds them, and finally multiplies the result to the remaining die. The goal is to get as high a result as possible. Once everyone is finished, go to the next round, keeping a running tally of your own scores throughout the rounds. The first player to reach the target score: Could be 200 or 600, whichever you like, wins!

Click here to learn how to play Damult Dice.

Division Games

Go Fish (for division facts)

Try to get rid of all your cards by finding pairs of numbers that will divide into each other. Have fun with a small twist to an age-old game!

Click here to learn how to play Go Fish (for division facts).

Division Bingo

Bingo anyone? Practice mastering division while playing a new version of this time-honored game. Flip over a division fact tile and if the answer is on your sheet, mark it off. Be the first player to cover all the spots on your bingo card and you win!

Click here to learn how to play Division Bingo.

Overall, success with math facts is an important part of your child being successful in math. Once a student has a good understanding of what math facts are, it helps to free up their focus for the real task of math: critical thinking and problem solving. One great way, of course, is to work toward quicker recall of math facts, so make it fun with some of these engaging games!

Find My Local Sylvan
We'd love to talk with you about how we can help your child reach his or her individual goals!