Don’t I need to teach doubles and other combinations first?

There is a lot of advice out there that teachers need to introduce different tricks to remembering math facts to help students learn the facts. Things like doubles, or doubles plus ones, or special combinations that add to ten are recommended to be taught to students. Teachers are exhorted to use many different kinds of exercises to teach these different ways of remembering facts. Is that necessary to do before memorizing facts as we do in Rocket Math? The simple answer is, “No, that’s not necessary.”
How do we know? What’s the evidence? There are two basic sources of evidence, one from experience and another from logic.
Let’s look at the logical reasons these are not necessary. The goal of Rocket Math, and any good math fact memorization program, is to develop automaticity in answering math facts. Automaticity means the student can instantly answer the fact, without any intervening thought process. So even if students first learn those memory tricks they have to be abandoned in favor of simply recalling the fact from memory.

An intervening thought process would go like this, “Four plus five is like four plus four but one more. Four plus four is eight , so one more is nine. So four plus five is nine.” But the goal of Rocket Math is to simply come to the point where the student reads, “Four plus five is,” and the answer, nine, pops into mind without another thought. Logic tells us that if the learner ultimately has to abandon the strategy, the only reason for learning the strategy is if it is needed as a transition. In other words, if students have to learn the facts to the point where they don’t use the strategy, then the only reason to learn the strategy is if they need it to get to the point of memorizing the facts.
This brings us to the second piece of evidence, experience. I know from experience tha students don’t need these strategies to learn the facts.  When I started using my original hand-written version of Rocket Math with my students with learning disabilities–it worked without them knowing other strategies!  In the past fifteen years thousands of children have learned math facts to automaticity using Rocket Math without learning those different tricks. If it were necessary, then they wouldn’t be able to do it. The reason it is not necessary is that students only have to memorize two facts at a time and that’s just not difficult to do. Give them plenty of practice with those two (enough so that they come to be able to answers as fast as they can write) and they will know the facts without some other (intervening) strategy.
So you don’t have to teach all those different tricks to students to remember facts. Just use Rocket Math, and make sure they are practicing the right way with corrective feedback from their partner. Their results will speak for themselves.

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