Teaching Tips - Math

Using Impact to Learn Math Facts

Impact methods are great for teaching math facts.

Math facts are things they need to memorize, like skip counting (e.g. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10... or 5, 10, 15, 20, 25...), single digit addition, single digit multiplication, etc. These things can be very tedious, and difficult, for children to memorize well.

With impact methods, it's still work, but it takes a lot fewer hours of work, they learn their math facts much better, and it's much more fun.

Creating Impact

To create impact, you have to make things interesting, fun, and "strong."

To create impact, you need to create strong emotion. When they shout out the math facts, with lots of intensity, it's a lot of fun for them, and it makes them learn them quicker and better. It may seem a little weird, but it really works. (And, if necessary, cover your ears - they think it's funny and will shout even louder, which all helps create more impact.)

For skip counting, fast repetition is also fun, and the faster they do it, the stronger the association that is created between the numbers in the series. A stronger association makes it much easier to remember the series.

We also use a stop watch and time how fast we can repeat a skip counting series. Then we try to beat our best times. I record the times in a notebook, so we can try again, over several days, to see how fast we can do it. Some children really get into trying to beat their best time, and they want to try over and over again, which gives them huge amounts of practice.

For really intense work, have them stand up, and encourage them or allow them to move their bodies, and move around the room. When younger children are really concentrating, it shows in their body movements. Making them sit still in a chair, slows their brains down a lot. Letting them move seems to build emotional and thinking energy (which makes your teaching work a lot easier), and it uses their physical energy.

And, it is very important, that you keep it fun.

Skip Counting Example

When teaching skip counting, we usually used 10 numbers in most sequences, but sometimes we used more. Here are the exact sequences we used:

2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30

10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100

5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100

3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30

6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 54, 60

9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90

4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40

7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70

8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, 64, 72, 80

For skip counting by two's, we included the last 5 numbers (22 to 30), because the teens (10 to 20) are somewhat unique, but 22 to 30 work the same as 32 to 40, 42 to 50, etc.

For skip counting by five's, counting to 100 is more normal, so we did the 20 numbers shown.

The Drill Sergeant Game

For each of these sequences, we played the "drill sergeant game". This is probably not for all children, but some children really love it. Also, it's probably more interesting to more boys than girls.

As with all teaching methods, make sure you test this teaching method with each child, to see if it works for them, and if it's not working, back off and try something else.

In the drill sergeant game, I yell out the numbers, "imitating" a drill sergeant (in fun, not anger or rigidness), and he has to yell them back, with the same tone.

For example, I might yell, "2, 4, 6, 8." If he repeats the numbers correctly, but his tone is kind of relaxed, I then say sarcastically with a wimpy tone of voice (and in fun), "No not 2, 4, 6, 8," (which makes him laugh), and then I say "2, 4, 6, 8" with the strong drill sergeant voice. So I make him copy my intense tone of voice, my speed, and the correct numbers. It's a lot of fun, and most children love doing it.

I also vary the breaks in the sequence. For example, one time I might say, "2, 4, 6," let him say it, then say, "8, 10, 12." Where the next time, I might say, "2, 4," let him say it, then say, "6, 8, 10," and so on.

You want to build an association between each number in the sequence, and the next number in the sequence. If I always did 2, 4, 6, had him repeat it, then 8, 10, 12, the association between 6 and 8 would be much weaker.

When we are first learning a new sequence, I may do the sequence with the break in same place two or three times in a row, then change where the breaks are.

Also, I always work from a piece of paper with the sequence written on it, so I can focus on intensity and speed, so I don't make any occasional mistakes in the sequence.


So, for skip counting by ten's, the first day might look like this:

10, 20, 30, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, have him repeat
10, 20, have him repeat, 30, 40, 50, have him repeat
10, 20, have him repeat, 30, 40, 50, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, 50, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, 50, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, have him repeat, 40, 50, 60, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, have him repeat, 40, 50, 60, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, have him repeat, 50, 60, 70, have him repeat
10, 20, 30, 40, have him repeat, 50, 60, 70, have him repeat
And so on, till I get to 100

Then, whenever we are doing the ten's again, I still vary the breaks:

10, 20, 30, have him repeat,
40, 50, 60, have him repeat,
70, 80, 90, have him repeat,
100, have him repeat,

10, 20, have him repeat,
30, 40, 50, have him repeat,
60, 70, 80, have him repeat,
90, 100, have him repeat.

Then, at some point, I would do:

10, 20, 30, 40, 50, have him repeat,
60, 70, 80, have him repeat,
90, 100, have him repeat.

Note: At any point, if they are having trouble repeating, for example, if they are having trouble repeating 4 numbers, go back to doing 3 numbers at a time. You have to keep testing them with more numbers, to see if they are ready, but if they are not ready, back off to fewer numbers.

Eventually we work up to doing the whole sequence of 10 numbers. If you keep it fun, you might get to the full sequence in half an hour to an hour, or it might take several days. They learn some sequences faster than others.


Also, once they know a sequence, get a stop watch, and time how long it takes them to do that sequence. Use a notebook, and write down the sequence (e.g. 10's), and the time for each time they try it. You can time yourself to compete with them (as long as it encourages them and doesn't discourage them).

Then get them to try and break their record. And congratulate them heartily, cheer, etc., when they do get a better time (my son appreciates getting a high five for this).

Once we have practiced quite a bit, we can do most 10 number sequences in 3 to 5 seconds, and sometimes even faster than 3 seconds. You have to talk really, really fast to say 10 numbers in 3 seconds!

The drill sergeant game should be hilarious fun. And the fun and the yelling should create lots of impact, and, along with the speed from the timings, these should all combine to help them learn the skip counting sequence very quickly and very well.


Each day or two, you should review the previous sequences. I get them to do each of the old skip counting sequences a few times. I time them each time, and encourage them to beat their old times (which I record in our book).

And make sure they enjoy this game. If it is not helping your child, try something else.

Impact for Multiplication

For multiplication facts, we use flashcards.

When we are going through the cards, if they don't know a card, I stop, tell them the answer, and have them repeat the question and the answer, very loudly and very fast, and with as much positive emotion as they can muster.

I also explain to them how impact works, many times, so when they are memorizing a card, all I have to say is "more impact" and they know to do it faster, louder, and more intensely, which is all fun and helps them (and they know that it helps them, so they really work at it).


To create impact work on:

  • Strong emotion. Have them shout as loudly as they can, and cover your ears. Encourage them to add as much emotional intensity as they can.
  • Fast repetition. Have them say it as quickly as possible.
  • Timing. Time them with a stop watch, and have them try to beat their best time.
  • Encourage them to move their bodies.
  • And most importantly, make sure you keep it FUN!

And teach them how all of these will help them to learn faster, have fun, and get them more play time (by getting their math done sooner).

For more general information on impact, also see our general teaching tip article on "Increasing Learning Through Impact."

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