So… Are We Not Doing the Flashcard Thing Anymore?

When I was a kid, math flashcards were a classroom mainstay. Parents had to buy flashcards for their kiddos at the beginning of the school year. The teacher had his or her own sets of flashcards in the classroom. Busy-work consisted of making flashcards for ourselves to practice on.

It was all flashcards, all the time. Memorizing the basic math facts was essential for getting into 4th grade.

Now? Well, now I can’t remember the last time I saw kids using flashcards. They don’t use them in the classrooms I sub in. And when I previously worked as a specialist, and I was in and out of classrooms all the time, I never saw them being used. Maybe they were used and I just never saw it. OR, am I totally out of the loop and math flashcards have become passe´?

When I’m subbing in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms, I see many kids using number grids to help them with the basic math skills needed to do the more in-depth double and triple digit addition.

For instance, when faced with a problem like 46+18… they use the number grid to figure out the solution for the ones place (Find the 8, move 6 spaces, get 14). Then they write down the 4 and carry the 1. Rather than just knowing that 6+8=14, they have to use the number grid to tackle the first step, thus interrupting the process and creating extra hurdles in solving the problem. Very few kids I’ve worked with know their single digit addition and subtraction facts, making double and triple digit addition and subtraction that much more difficult.

(Are you still with me? I know… I’m talking about numbers and using big words like ‘digits’ and ‘solutions’. It’s okay if you’ve glazed over. Just bear with me… I’m getting there…)

Anyway, in the classrooms I’ve been in, there has been zero push to memorize the basic math facts. Students use the number grids as crutches in order to help them do more complicated problems. This makes no sense to me. In order to be able to progress to more complicated math which requires higher order thinking skills, memorization of the basic math facts needs to be there… does it not? Or is that not something we’re doing with kids anymore because some common core curriculum decided they needed to understand the reason for why 4+6=10?

Seriously. It’s a legitimate question. Are schools not doing the flashcard thing anymore? Are you teachers still doing the flashcard thing? Have flashcards been banned from math curriculum? Do we not want kids to memorize basic math facts anymore? And if not… why?

By the time I graduated from high school I had finished my final math course which was calculus. Calculus made zero sense to me, and most of the time I had no freakin’ clue what I was doing… but I must have been doing something right because I ended up with a B in the class. That B would not have been there had I not known my basic math facts. Heck, I wouldn’t have gotten through pre-Algebra without knowing my basic math facts. I understand that in education, we’re moving away from rote memorization and moving towards an understanding of why we do what we do. But do students really need to know why 6 x 7 = 42? Shouldn’t they just have that down cold so then they can explain how they solved the problem using the Pythagorean Theorem? Aren’t we sort of beating down the wrong door with this whole “Memorization is Bad” mentality? Like it or not, isn’t memorization sometimes necessary?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe schools are still all about the flashcards, and I just haven’t had the opportunity to see it. But if that’s the case… could you teacher peeps please fill me in? Are we still doing the flashcard thing… or not so much anymore?

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4 thoughts on “So… Are We Not Doing the Flashcard Thing Anymore?

  1. knightwitch says:

    I agree – great post! Math is not the only subject greatly failing in teaching our kids basic skills. Phonics is a thing of the past now too – they are expected to “guess” what the word might be… Sad when a kid reaches double digit age and still can’t read or spell most common words (not counting the at-home lack here) but what will they do when they encounter words they’ve never seen or heard before?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Veronica says:

    I completely agree! I grew up with flash cards and memorizing the multiplication table inside and out. I saw that this was not reinforced in the school so I encouraged my older daughter to do the same. Old school is sometimes better. They used the “number line” in elementary school and I thought the same thing. Thankfully, my daughter is on the honor roll again. I am very proud of her but you really do need to put in the extra time at home. Great post! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • annieemmy says:

      Thanks! I’m not sure why the old way was so bad. If it wasn’t broken, why do we need to fix it? But I love that you put in the extra time at home with your kids. I wish more parents did that with their kids. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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