Teaching Fact Families in First Grade Math

In my classroom, we work with fact families frequently. They are such a great way to help my firsties grasp the basic operations of addition and subtraction. If you're brand new to using fact families in your classroom, you're in luck! Today I'm sharing how I teach fact families in first grade from start to finish! 

Teaching fact families in first grade is fun and easy with these simple tips and tricks you and your students will love.

What Are Fact Families? 

Fact families are related math facts that use the same set of numbers. Each fact family has 2 addition facts and 2 subtraction facts. For example, for the numbers 3, 6 & 9 our facts would be:

  • 3 + 6 = 9
  • 6 + 3 = 9
  • 9 - 3 = 6
  • 9 - 6 = 3
The numbers you focus on will depend on the skillset of your students. In first grade, sums to 12 is a great place to start with fact families. This will provide enough variation for plenty of practice, without getting overwhelming to your students. 

Why Are Fact Families Important?

Fact families are highly useful and important in the first-grade classroom. Using fact families helps illustrate a few things to children. Firstly, fact families help to cement the idea that addition and subtraction are opposites. When children first begin working on subtraction, it can feel quite a bit trickier than addition. The use of fact families helps to boost confidence and teach children how to "work backward" from what they already know about addition facts.  

Worksheets like these help students learn fact families in fun ways that feel more like a game than learning.

Secondly, fact families help students gain fact fluency. Learning addition and subtraction facts takes time and effort, but incorporating fact families is a surefire way to help students retain information and prompt their learning. 

Introduce Fact Families to Students

Ready to get started teaching fact families? I hope so! These are such a valuable addition to your first-grade math lessons and will help your students master their math facts like never before. In my room, I like to use a variety of techniques when working with fact families and that starts with a great introduction!

To get started, I like to show a fun video like this one to my whole group. Using a video or digital activity as an introduction is a great way to snag student attention and get full engagement. I like this video because it offers a few examples, beginning with the most basic. 

Next, I like to have the children work with me in small groups and use dry-erase boards and manipulatives to try this on their own. I will choose 3 numbers, illustrate the first fact family and then have kiddos work on building the other 3 in the family. Depending on the skill level of your students, you may need to illustrate this a few times on your own board first. The manipulatives come in handy for illustrating what this looks like to your more visual learners as well, so definitely use those if you can!

This little intro helps set the stage for fact family work and shows children how all of the math facts relate. You can also make an anchor chart during this time noting what makes the facts related, criteria for fact families, and an example. I like to keep this displayed somewhere in the classroom as we work on fact families over the next few weeks. 

Using Worksheets to Practice Fact Families

Once your kids have an idea of how to manipulate fact families on their own, it's a great time to start some independent practice. For these activities, I am a big fan of using no-prep worksheets. The ones we like use a variety of formats to keep it interesting. 
Using several different types of worksheets as you are teaching fact families will help keep your students engaged in learning and give them the opportunity to complete some independent practice at the same time.

Some of the pages ask students to list out fact families for a set of numbers. In the beginning, you might want to keep those manipulatives available to your students so they can use them to illustrate as needed. As your students progress though, they should be able to do this more quickly over time. Some of the other pages feature cut-and-paste activities that ask students to identify the facts that go with sets of numbers. This is more of a reverse activity that will help students gain fluency over time. Finally, my kids love color-by-code activities, so I always include one of those in our fact families practice as well! 

Wrap Up with a Fun Craft 

I love to close these activities with a fun, hands-on craft activity for my students. The one we use in the fall is a cute tree design with acorns containing spaces for fact families. I have 4 different treetop designs that I use so I can make sure students seated near each other get a different set of facts. 

Students love crafts, so using this adorable fall tree fact family craft is the perfect way to get your students excited about practicing their fact families too.

Students will fill out the fact families, color the trees, and then cut them out. Finally, they glue the trees to a piece of construction paper and add a few fun details like a squirrel and clouds. Once students have completed their crafts, I love to display these on a bulletin board for a fun and festive display that can stay up all through the fall. The trees say, "Going NUTTY with Fact Families."  I like to use large bulletin board letters to spell out this phrase and finish out the display. You can even add some faux, fall leaves to jazz it up a bit if you have some! This is a great no-fuss activity that will offer continued practice to your kiddos and look so cute on display!

Get Started with Fact Families in your Classroom 

Fact families are SO much fun and I highly recommend taking some time to work on them in your classroom. Making sure to include a solid introduction, some hands-on practice, and then weaving in other activities is a great way to ensure your students gain fact fluency with ease!

There are so many methods to teach this topic, but if you're looking for a done-for-you option you can grab all of the activities mentioned in this post in my Fall Fact Families Resource! This resource is a great addition to your first-grade math lessons in the fall. All of the worksheets feature fun themes like acorns, leaves, and pumpkins. Plus, that simple craft will come in handy when planning your fall bulletin board display! 
Use this engaging resource when teaching fact families in first grade this year.

If you're looking to focus on fact families during another time of the year, be sure to check out this 1st Grade Fact Families Resource as well. It features worksheets and a craft without the fall theme so you can use it at any point during the year! Have fun working on these activities in your classroom, I know your students will love discovering the magic of fact families!

Use this engaging resource when teaching fact families in first grade this year.

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Don't forget to pin this post to your classroom Pinterest board so you'll have these ideas handy!

Teaching fact families in first grade can be fun and easy with worksheets, activities, and crafts your students will love. With these simple tips and tricks, you can help your students understand fact families in no time. We all know practice makes perfect, so why not make that practice fun and engaging. That's why I love these fact families activities and I know you and your students will too. #factfamilies #firstgrademath #factfamiliesinfirstgrade

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