Why are students frustrated by math? Because they don’t know the basic facts. In order to do math easily, students need to be able to write the answers to math facts instantly, without hesitation—basically as fast as they can write.
What is Math Fluency?
Math fact fluency is the ability to recall the answers to basic math facts automatically and without hesitation. Fact fluency is gained through significant practice, with mastery of basic math facts being a goal of both teachers and parents.
“Fluency refers to having efficient, accurate, and generalizable methods (algorithms) for computing that are based on well-understood properties and number relationships.” National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000, p. 144
“Math fluency is the desired outcome of continuous learning and practice in math. It is more than memorizing math facts and recalling answers to questions. It is feeling confident and able to take part in math lessons and activities. It’s the ability to complete assignments and activities accurately, without hesitation.” May 23, 2016
Why is it important?
Learn math without fear, Stanford expert says
Stanford Professor Jo Boaler says that students most effectively learn “math facts” working on problems that they enjoy, rather than through exercises and drills they fear. Speed pressure, timed testing and blind memorization damage children’s experience of math, she says.
(Sourced from https://news.stanford.edu/2015/01/29/math-learning-boaler-012915/ on 15.11.2018)
Some of the sub-processes, particularly basic facts, need to be developed to the point that they are done automatically. If this fluent retrieval does not develop, then the development of higher-order mathematical skills, such as multiple digit addition and subtraction, and fractions-may be severely impaired. (Resnick, 1983).
“Once procedures are automatized, they require little conscious effort to use, which, in turn, frees intentional and working memory resources for use on other more important features of the problem” (Geary, 1995).
How can we expect students to complete a complex task if the aren’t able to perform the basics of computation? Especially for students who struggles with Math and don’t get it intuitively, or the first time they try to master it.
Math facts fluency leads to higher order mathematics
Through automaticity students free up their working memory and can devote it to problem solving and learning new concepts and skills (Geary, 1994). Quite simply, a lack of fluency in basic math fact recall significantly hinders a child’s subsequent progress with problem-solving, algebra and higher-order math concepts.
Fluent math facts mean less confusion
Math facts are important because they form the building blocks for higher-level math concepts. When a child masters his/her math facts, these concepts will be significantly easier and the student will be better equipped to solve them faster. If the child spends a lot of time doing the basic facts, he/she is more likely to be confused with the processes and get lost in their calculations.
Math fact automaticity affects performance – not only in Maths
In later elementary, students have longer and more complicated computations to complete to check their understanding of various concepts. At this stage, if a student does not have his/her math facts committed to memory, he/she will spend a disproportionate amount of time figuring out the smaller calculations and risk not completing the test. This not only affects their performance in math class, but will also in other subjects, such as science and geography.
Less Math anxiety
Math can be compared to languages in some ways. Just like you have to learn to combine letters into words and words into sentences – and we have strategies like phonics and sight words to help kids to learn to read – math facts are the foundation blocks for learning the next level of Maths. There is rote learning involved in both language and math mastery. Math anxiety starts when children fall behind and can’t keep up. To avoid these anxieties, students’ early elementary years should focus on learning the foundation math skills needed for later years – math facts are among those important math skills.
When and how should I teach Math Fluency?
During middle school, kids transition from grasping foundational concepts to organizing and synthesizing information through graphing, estimating, solving equations, and more.
Math Fluency Tests
Children should learn the operations in order (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). If a child needs to start with addition facts, there is no need to test the other operations. NOTE: There is an exception: If a child is in 4th grade or above, multiplication facts (which can’t be counted on fingers) have priority. Fluency with multiplication facts is SO indispensable to further math computation, fractions, and pre-algebra that you can’t wait until they have mastered addition and subtraction. Go back for those skills later (Sourced from http://www.rocketmath.com on 15.11.2018).
- Addition facts 15-second fluency test
- Subtraction facts 15-second fluency test
- Multiplication facts 15 second fluency test
- Division facts 15-second fluency test
Tech Tools for mastering Math Fluency
Tech tools can guide kids through this critical turning point with engaging activities that build their math fluency and confidence. On this list, you’ll find games that promote problem-solving, social platforms for collaborating on tough mathematical concepts, and lessons that revolve around real-world concepts to make math more meaningful to middle school students.
Our personal favorite is Matific: https://www.matific.com/za/en-za/home/our-product/homeschooling/
Matific is designed by educational experts to foster the teaching and learning of conceptual understanding for K-6 students. Immersing students in an engaging learning platform, Matific covers your mathematics curriculum and supports students to achieve mastery in a playful and thought-provoking manner.