Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Power of Fives and Tens 
by Valerie Henry, Ed.D.

"We love the concrete to representational to abstract mini-lessons and we love the assessment strategies. But we think the magical part of FactsWise is the focus on fives and tens!" (feedback from two FactsWise primary teachers).

The Power of 5s and 10s: Strategies for Making Facts Fluency Connections
I've been thinking a lot about this comment recently -- especially because the data I've collected over the years continues to demonstrate that a blend of all five FactsWise principles produces the most powerful results. In classrooms where only a few of the principles are implemented, students are less likely to make the amazing advances we see in classrooms where all five principles are fully implemented.

Flexible Strategies support Mathematical Confidence
The key reason I decided to prioritize 5s and 10s in both add/subtract and multiply/divide has everything to do with my experiences interacting with people who are mathematically confident. Almost without exception, these boys and girls, men and women use flexible mental math strategies with ease. And many of these strategies utilize 5 and 10 as benchmarks.
When students can easily find sums and differences, products and quotients involving 5s and 10s, they have the tools they need to solve more complex problems. In the FactsWise mini-lesson video below, you'll see 4th grade dual-immersion students who are using 5s and 10s and other facts they know to reason about x8 facts they're still learning.

The power of 5s and 10s starts showing up as early as Goal 5 in FactsWise Add/Subtract and continues all the way through Goal 9 and into the "secret" Goal 10 (two-digit mental math). The chart below illustrates several of the most common 5s and 10s strategies with problems from Goal 8 (With 9s).
Focusing on each FactsWise Add/Subtract goal as a related group of facts
"I just recently realized that I've been focusing on individual Goal 1 facts, and not really helping students see the connections -- that all of them add up to either 4 or 5. Now that I've started prioritizing the 5s connection, students are seeing the commonalities between the facts and are becoming much more fluent and confident!" (FactsWise kindergarten teacher).
To help students make connections in the first four FactsWise addition/subtraction goals, consider calling the goals by their names rather than simply as Goal 1, Goal 2, etc. By naming them "Within 5", "With 5s", "Within 10" and "With 10s" (Goals 1 through 4 respectively), you and your students can continuously focus on the connections between the facts within each goal.
Focusing on the connections between FactsWise Multiply/Divide goals

FactsWise multiply/divide is designed to make it easy for teachers and students to make connections from one goal to the next. Goal 2 becomes much easier for students when they can make connections back to the x10s they learned in Goal 1. Goals 4 and 5 build off the fluency students develop in Goal 3. And the same holds true of Goals 6, 7 and 8.
My next post will take a look at mini-lesson activities that help you and your students make connections and build fluency with the foundational 5s and 10s.
If you'd like to learn more about FactsWise and how you can engage your students in powerful facts fluency learning experiences, you can preview and purchase FactsWise Resource Books and FactsWise Online Courses for Educators at

Friday, June 8, 2018

FactsWise: Students learn what you teach!

I've been working to transform the teaching and learning of math basic facts fluency since 2004, and teachers keep telling me what a difference they see with students who have had daily mini-lessons that focus on conceptual understanding, patterns, and strategies as stepping stones to full fluency. I recently was talking with Myuriel, a 4th grade dual immersion teacher, who captured the power of FactsWise so well.

You're all invited to view the Introductory modules for both Addition/Subtraction and Multiplication/Division at any time at

Monday, August 21, 2017

Announcing FactsWise E-Courses!

I'm delighted to announce that you can now learn all about FactsWise through online e-courses for both addition/subtraction and multiplication/division. These e-courses include all of the information from the two-day FactsWise workshops, as well as additional classroom videos and in-depth insights into the lessons and strategies that we just don't have time for in the workshops.  (

If you're a teacher who wants to learn a bit more about FactsWise before you decide to enroll in the course, you'll be able to access the introductory chapter for free to see what it's all about. If you're a teacher who'd love to attend the two-day workshop but are a bit too far away from southern California to make it happen -- this online course is designed to help you transition to a simple approach to facts fluency development that time after time has had remarkable results. (

If you're a teacher who's been introduced to FactsWise from a team member and you want to get a full understanding, this course is for you. Many teachers just like you have told me that they felt so much more confident about building their students' flexible number sense and facts fluency once they had a more in-depth understanding of the principles behind FactsWise. (

And if you're a teacher who's been to a FactsWise workshop and you want to get a refresher or see it in action, this course is for you too! You'll be able to see many more video clips online than I could ever show during the workshops, and there are a number of bonus downloads you'll be able to access through the course. (

Of course, I'd be delighted to meet you in person at a two-day FactsWise workshop -- which are offered in the fall through both the Santa Barbara County Education Office as well as the Orange County (California) Department of Education. And if you attend one of these workshops, you'll get a special coupon to access the online course as well.

I'm happy to announce that both the FactsWise Addition/Subtraction and also the FactsWise Multiplication/Division courses are completed. The introductory module is completely free and will give you a strong overview of the approach and implementation research behind FactsWise. You can find them both at

Please feel free to share this with other teachers you think might be interested -- I'd love for you and your colleagues to be able to take advantage of these courses!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Subtracting from Teen Numbers

When you are getting ready to begin Goal 8 Subtraction, you may be wondering how you can help your students move beyond counting back or counting up to solve these problems using strategies based on properties of operations. I've made a Subtracting from Teen Numbers screencast that shares four different strategies that do just this. The screencast also includes a number talk approach that will provide students with time and tools to generate some or many of these strategies using logic and visuals. These four strategies will also be very relevant to Goal 9 subtraction.

You may also find you want to try this approach with Goal 5 subtraction. Relating subtraction to addition and Take from Ten may be particularly helpful for Goal 5.

I hope you and your students enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

At your request ... Daily Activity Progressions

Many teachers have told me that they really want to focus on basic facts fluency for 5 to 10 minutes each day, but they have difficulty finding the time to plan those activities. So I've put together a set of sample  activities for each of the goals for addition/subtraction and also for multiplication/division. 

The activities for each goal are numbered sequentially, working first on concept building with mostly concrete activities, then shifting to strategies and patterns using visual representations, and finally moving in the third column to abstract practice. You'll find the blackline masters referenced in the activities following each progression. 



I hope you find these resources helpful ... and please post here to share what you learn as you try them out with students! 

Note: If you have attended a workshop in the past year, you probably recorded the password for the online FactsWise resources in your notebook. If you attended an earlier workshop, feel free to contact me at to get the password. If you've not been able to attend a FactsWise workshop, you can purchase the activity progressions at Teachers Pay Teachers: Addition/Subtraction and Multiplication/Division

Also, if you'd like more more information about the entire FactsWise program, you can find the 2016 FactsWise Resource Books at Teachers Pay Teachers: Addition/Subtraction and Multiplication/Division.

Monday, June 6, 2016

3 or 4 in a Row Game Directions - Multiplication/Division

If you've been looking for directions for the 3-in-a-Row games for each Multiplication/Division Goal, I've put together a video that explains them while showing a sample game being played. Following the 3-in-a-Row game, I've also included directions for the two different variations on the 4-in-a-Row games that are cumulative reviews after Goal 5 and Goal 8. I hope you and your students enjoy playing these games during the abstract practice phases of the different goals!

Timed Tests -- NOT the Way to Build Facts Fluency and NOT the Way to Assess Facts Fluency

If you'd like to learn more about FactsWise, you can freely preview a number of the FactsWise mini-lessons and game...