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Mastering the Basic Math Facts in Addition and Subtraction

Strategies, Activities, and Interventions to Move Students Beyond Memorization

By Susan O'Connell, John SanGiovanni
Foreword by Skip Fennell

A solid understanding of math facts is one of the biggest keys to success and confidence in math students. This book provides clear strategies, teaching tips, and classroom activities to help mastery of addition and subtraction facts become a reality for all of your students.

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“When math fact instruction is thoughtful and strategic, it results in more than a student’s ability to quickly recall a fact; it cultivates reflective students who have a greater understanding of numbers and a flexibility of thinking that allows them to understand connections between mathematical ideas.”
—Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni

In today’s math classroom, we want children to do more than just memorize math facts.  We want them to understand the math facts they are being asked to memorize.  Our goal is automaticity and understanding; without both, our children will never build the foundational skills needed to do more complex math.  Both the Common Core State Standards and the NCTM Principles and Standards emphasize the importance of understanding the concepts of addition and subtraction.  Susan O’Connell and John SanGiovanni provide insights into the teaching of basic math facts, including a multitude of instructional strategies, teacher tips, and classroom activities to help students master their facts while strengthening their understanding of numbers, patterns, and properties. 

 Designed to be easily integrated into your existing math program, Mastering the Basic Math Facts:

  • emphasizes the big ideas that provide a focus for math facts instruction
  • broadens your repertoire of instructional strategies
  • provides dozens of easy-to-implement activities to support varied levels of learners
  • stimulates your reflection related to teaching math facts.

Through investigations, discussions, visual models, children’s literature, and hands-on explorations, students develop an understanding of the concepts of addition and subtraction, and through engaging, interactive practice achieve fluency with basic facts.

Whether you’re introducing your students to basic math facts, reviewing facts, or providing intervention for struggling students, this book will provide you with insights and activities to simplify this complex, but critical, component of math teaching. 

Extensive online resources include customizable activities, templates, recording sheets, and teacher tools (such as multiplication tables, game templates, and assessment options) to simplify your planning and preparation.  Over 450 pages of reproducible forms are included in English and Spanish translations.

A study guide for Professional Learning Communities and book clubs is also included.

Discover more resources for developing mathematical thinking at

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)



Chapter 1 Understanding Addition and Subtraction
Chapter 2 Plus One, Plus Two
Chapter 3 Adding Zero
Chapter 4 Adding Ten
Chapter 5 Doubles
Chapter 6 Making Ten
Chapter 7 Using Tens
Chapter 8 Using Doubles


Professional Learning Communities Study Guide
A Guide to the Downloadable Resources




“What a find! These books are resources that will not be on a shelf waiting to be pulled. These books will be used. You’ll find them on teachers’ desks and talked about in faculty lounges. These books are ‘must haves’ as we all navigate the route to computational fluency.”
—Francis (Skip) Fennell, Professor of Education & Graduate and Professional Studies, McDaniel College, Past President of NCTM

“This book is an excellent resource. It focuses on helping students understand groups of facts and then building on that understanding with additional sets of facts versus fact memorization. Teaching in this strategic manner really supports student learning and builds conceptual understanding.”
—Greg Coleman, math instructional coach who blogs at Mr. Elementary Math

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