Recent research has led to a district-wide decision to revise Fact Fluency practice and eliminate the use of timed assessments. Articles linked below provide part of the research leading to the revisions.
The role of fact fluency remains an important component to students' understanding of mathematical concepts. The expectation continues for students to learn their facts and be able to apply them in multiple contexts; however, we are moving away from the notion that a student's speed in recalling their facts should be measured.
To support this transition, an emphasis has been placed on the role of Number Talks in the classroom as a primary means to help students explore the connections between numbers and build visual representations. Activities that help students practice their facts are linked below. These include concepts as simple as flash cards as well as more interactive games that involve dice-rolling and chance.
“Procedural skills and fluency: The standards call for speed and accuracy in calculation. Students must practice core functions, such as single-digit multiplication, in order to have access to more complex concepts and procedures. Fluency must be addressed in the classroom or through supporting materials, as some students might require more practice than others.”
Adding It Up – National Research Council
Lists procedural fluency as one of five components of Mathematical proficiency and defines it as “skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately”
Fluency without Fear – Jo Boaler (Stanford University)
“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.”
Fluency: Simply Fast and Accurate? I think Not! – Linda Gojak (former NCTM president)
Principles and Standards for School Mathematics states, “Computational fluency refers to having efficient and accurate methods for computing. Students exhibit computational fluency when they demonstrate flexibility in the computational methods they choose,understand and can explain these methods, and produce accurate answers efficiently. The computational methods that a student uses should be based on mathematical ideas that the student understands well, including the structure of the base-ten number system, properties of multiplication and division, and number relationships” (p. 152). What a wonderful description of fluency! It reminds us that a student cannot be fluent without conceptual understanding and flexible thinking.
Reasoning with Fractions - Graham Fletcher (elem. Math specialist and national speaker)
“If the definition of fluency asks students be efficient, flexible, and accurate she nailed it. So why is the definition of fluency different when we talk about addition and subtraction or multiplication and division of single digits? The same way our daughter decomposed numbers and used distributive property with fractions is the exact same way she learned her basic facts. Her understanding of number is scalable.”