What part does fact fluency play in the new curriculum (Math in Focus) and how does it encourage relational thinking? How can we help students build this number sense? These were the types of questions answered during Glen Sherman’s March workshop “Just the Facts: How Strategic Fact Fluency Development Helps Build Number Sense for All Kids.”
As a CPSD math coach, Glen works with struggling students to build fact fluency since oftentimes, the curriculum does not include explicit instruction during class and is instead left to the kids and/or their families to learn. This can lead to problems down the road, as fact fluency is a necessity to build a good foundation for more complex conceptual mathematics.
The days of rote memorization are gone and have been replaced by more relational thinking. Instead of learning just the procedures and algorithms, students create a deeper number sense to apply to problem solving. For instance, many of us have just memorized the fact 6+8 =14. However, a student today would attack this problem in a variety of ways. Knowing “doubles,” a student may break down the problem as (6+6) +2 = 12+2 = 14. Or using “10 facts,” a student will know (6+4)+4 = 10+4 = 14. These were the strategies we discussed on how to help students learn their facts. As volunteers, we need to let students take the lead on how they approach the problem and what makes most sense to them. Then from there, it’s a matter of practicing these facts in a variety of ways until the student builds up fluency.
It’s been proven that the old flash cards and memorization don’t work for most students. Instead, we need to create deeper understanding and connection to help students gain clear number sense. Not only will this lead to better fluency, it will help students to be more flexible with problem solving and make less mistakes.
We wrapped up the evening practicing fluency games and activities to help our students build a strong foundation for math.