Using Math Flash Cards to Teach Various Concepts

Math flash cards are great tools for teaching concepts ranging from basic to more complex arithmetic.  Here I will outline ways to use them effectively.

My son loves cards.  I think it’s safe to that say he has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours flipping through stacks of cards.  This made flash cards a no-brainer choice for teaching him both reading and math.

Number Recognition and Counting

You don’t have to spend your hard-earned money on pre-printed cards.  What I did was very simple and inexpensive.  I bought a package of 3” x 5” index cards and wrote one number on each card with a magic marker.

And he loved them.

I first gave him 11 cards with the numbers 0 through 10.  After he learned those, I gave him ten more cards marked with 11 through 20.  Slowly we worked our way to 100.  I gave him only ten or eleven cards at a time to avoid overwhelming him.

I spent quite a bit of time reviewing these cards with him. I flipped through each card in order, saying the name of each number.   In this way he learned to count and to recognize the numbers.

And all the time he spent flipping though them on his own gave him even more review.

Red is often a favorite color with children. It brightens up just about everything.
Use various colors on your cards to create more interest.


circleYou can make these cards with or without labels. Many children will need both.

Would you like to guess how my son learned his shapes?

Again, all we needed were some index cards and magic markers.  I included the basic shapes:  square, rectangle, circle, and triangle.

But I figured, why stop there?  I could make cards for the star, parallelogram, rhombus (or diamond), hexagon, octagon, right triangle, equilateral triangle, and obtuse triangle.

My son loved these cards and did not care that they were not perfect.

I also included the right angle, acute angle, and obtuse angle even though they aren’t really shapes.

You may think learning all those shapes was overwhelming for him, but it really wasn't. He loved looking at his cards, and had no problem learning the shapes.  The key was finding a learning material that he enjoyed.

But in this world, all is not perfect.  For some reason, the very sight of the angles freaked him out, and he would get all upset. 

It could be that he was used to the blue marker I had used for all the shape cards, and the red I had chosen for the angle cards got him upset. Perhaps in his mind they were supposed to be blue.

I mention this to make the point that it pays to observe closely what could be upsetting your child. The answer to the problem may be as simple as changing the color.

The cards I'm showing here have labels, which can be helpful for a while, especially if your child is learning to read. But you may need to eventually make new cards without labels.  If you don't, she may come to think it's only a rectangle if the word "rectangle" is written on the card. Removing the label will help her to generalize these concepts and to recognize them with or without the labels.

And of course, generalizing her knowledge of the shapes will also involve pointing out rectangles, squares, triangles, etc. on concrete, everyday objects around you such as blocks or buildings.

Math Facts

addition flash card
addition flash card

It’s been a long time.  But I think I can remember using flash cards to learn math facts. Maybe you did, too.  Cards are ideal for this task.

Math flash cards make it easy to review math equations with your child.

I think it’s best to take it one series at a time rather than overwhelming him with a large stack of math facts all at once.

You could make cards for the “zeros” first:  0+0=0, 0+1=1, 0+2=2, and so on.  Once he’s learned those, you could give him the “ones”:  1+0=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, all the way to 1+10=11.  

Most children memorize all their facts through the “tens”, but in some cases, they may learn their “elevens” and “twelves.”

Once he learns the addition facts, you can follow the same procedure for subtraction, multiplication and division facts. Start with the “zeros” and teach 10 to 12 equations at a time.

You can choose to write the equations with or without the answers.

If your child is verbal and you want to keep track of how well she is learning her facts, you can leave off the answers. Then you can test her by holding each one up to see if she can remember the answer.

Or, she could test herself if she is at that level.  You may find it helpful to write the answer on the back side of the math flash cards so you can know right away if she got it right. Or she can check her own answers if she is testing herself.

On the other hand, if your child is nonverbal, or if he is first learning the equations, you’ll likely want to include the answers.  That way, you can read and review entire equations repeatedly with him.

But a nonverbal child obviously wouldn’t be able to tell you the answers as you hold up the flash cards.  How then do you test his knowledge of the math facts?

You can call out the equation, have him write or type the equation, and then see if he can write or type the correct answer.

You can also give him a choice between two or three answers and let him choose the answer.

Math Flash Cards are Simple Tools and Easy to Use

Math flash cards are also very versatile. If your child ever learns higher math, you can also use cards for more complex arithmetic, such as square roots. 

Of course, this is just one method for teaching math. It’s a good idea to find a variety of ways to present these concepts.

This site will be one source where you can discover more techniques for teaching math. Check back again as I’ll be posting more ideas soon.

If you would rather print them out, click here for a good source for free printable math flash cards.

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