Mathematical fluency can be described as flexibility, accuracy, understanding, and strategy
when learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide when developing numeracy skills and habits.
At Trinity, our pillars call for deep learning experiences to build a strong academic and character foundation.
Some of our practices are not “how it was done when I was in school” and seem complex. I want you to know that we study to hone and enhance our skills yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily.
Now that learning is facilitated at home, we have the opportunity to make our practices more visible. We communicate why we do what we do.
For example, we do not and will not give timed math tests. Please read Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts By Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University. In this article, Dr. Boaler writes:
Mathematics facts are important but the memorization of math facts through times table repetition, practice and timed testing is unnecessary and damaging.
And, later in the article:
When teachers emphasize the memorization of facts, and give tests to measure number facts students suffer in two important ways. For about one third of students the onset of timed testing is the beginning of math anxiety (Boaler, 2014). Sian Beilock and her colleagues have studied people’s brains through MRI imaging and found that math facts are held in the working memory section of the brain. But when students are stressed, such as when they are taking math questions under time pressure, the working memory becomes blocked and students cannot access math facts they know (Beilock, 2011; Ramirez, et al, 2013). As students realize they cannot perform well on timed tests they start to develop anxiety and their mathematical confidence erodes. The blocking of the working memory and associated anxiety particularly occurs among higher achieving students and girls. Conservative estimates suggest that at least a third of students experience extreme stress around timed tests, and these are not the students who are of a particular achievement group, or economic background. When we put students through this anxiety provoking experience we lose students from mathematics.
Above all else, we try to do no harm.
Teachers should help students develop math facts, not by emphasizing facts for the sake of facts or using ‘timed tests’ but by encouraging students to use, work with and explore numbers. As students work on meaningful number activities they will commit math facts to heart at the same time as understanding numbers and math. They will enjoy and learn important mathematics rather than memorize, dread and fear mathematics.
We teach flexibility, accuracy, understanding, and strategy when learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. An answer to the really good question, “What’s wrong with carrying the one,” was shared by Robert Berry, past president of NCTM.
We – students, faculty, and parents – work on this together when we are at Trinity. Here are several artificats from our sessions.
Mathematical fluency – flexibility, accuracy, understanding, and strategy when developing numeracy skills and habits – helps us develop algebraic reasoning at an early age.
Deep mathematical learning experiences are to be savored and enjoyed just as much as a great book or good meal. The answer is important, but the process, the creative communication of thinking is so much more.