Teaching fact families can be a lot of fun. Like most of my lessons, I like to introduce new topics with setting up a challenge, and fact families are no different. So I start with “Fact Family Theater.”

I have number cards (8.5″ x 8.5″) card stock with a single digit on each card, as well as each of the math symbols (+, =, etc.) The plus card has a minus sign on the opposite side, and the division symbol is on the back of the multiplication card. I also have a length of black fabric for the curtain.

I tell my students that we will see a four act play. I then hand out three number cards (a fact family), as well as a +/- card and an equal card, to five students. As I hand them out I say something like “Playing the role of Mr. Eight is Sam” and have them each come up to the front of the class. I also have two students come up to hold the fabric between the class and the “actors.” I then explain to the actors that they will be putting on a four act play. And that they have to be quiet so that the audience can’t hear what they are saying. I then instruct the audience that they need to sit quietly and when the curtain opens to either do “thumbs up or thumbs down.” The actors will hopefully form an accurate number sentence, and when they are ready the curtain drops and the audience responds. I then write down the first scene. We repeat until all four acts are done. To engage the audience (if the actors are taking a while), I ask them to predict what the next act will be.

I also have another activity that my kids like to do. I write several fact family groups on the whiteboard, with four lines radiating out. I draw a name from my popsicle stick can (a can that has each students name written on a popsicle stick), and they come up and write a fact family sentence on one of the radiating lines. Then I call another name, and the first person I called, will write down the fact family sentence of the last person I called. Then I call another name and so forth until all the fact family sentences are written down.