Building Fluency in Math
By Julie Diamond, OCT
When a child is fluent with math facts, they can efficiently and accurately recall the answers to basic math equations. With fluency, students may feel less anxious and more confident when performing more complex questions. Fluency helps students become more flexible thinkers and problem solvers. Here are some ways you can build your child/student’s fluency skills in numeracy:
1. For children in kindergarten & grade 1: Students at this age should be efficiently recalling facts within 5 (for kindergarten) and within 10 (for the end of grade 1). It is important to note that while grade 1 students are introduced to facts up to 20, and should be successful with strategies to solve them, the expectation is fluency up to 10.
While timed tests have generally been the way to test for fluency, I would suggest waiting until the end of grade 2 to use this to assess students’ fluency. Students in the early grades need time to build and practice their automaticity.
An example of an activity you could use with this age group is to use flashcards (or this fun video) to help young learners develop their subitizing skills. “Subitizing” is an important math skill which is the ability to identify the number of things in a set without counting.
2. For children in grade 2: Students at this age should know how to fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By the end of grade 2, they should also know all sums of two one-digit numbers from memory. However, before moving on to any timed or memorization activities, students must first learn and know the strategies such as doubles & doubles +1, adding 0, making ten, adding 1 and adding 2, etc.
To practice, grab a deck of cards (take out the J, Q, K and make the Ace represent the number 1) and lay two cards down. Ask your child to add them together. If they want an extra challenge, you could expand that into a timed activity, addition/subtraction war (same as the card game War but instead it’s the first one to add or subtract the two cards first wins the round). Or you could even get your child to add three cards together. If you don't have a deck of cards, you can play this game with dice instead which will build on their subitizing skills as well.
3. For children is grade 3: At this age, multiplication and division are introduced. By the end of grade 3, your child should have their multiplication and division facts (up to 100) memorized.
Start with one multiplication number to practice (let’s say 2) and write the numbers 1 to 12 on pieces of folded paper then put them in a pile. To make it less stressful, play a song for about 45-50 seconds to give your child/student time pick up those papers at random and complete all twelve questions (1x2, 2x4, etc). When the time is up, stop the music and they put their pencil down. When they are able to complete this group of numbers with 90%+ accuracy for two days, then move on to the next number (3x tables). Do not forget to include 0x tables.
Another game you could play to practice multiplication or addition of one-digit numbers is called Drill Donuts. See the video here for details.
Practice, practice, practice. Once you start practicing, you should have an idea of which areas are stumping your child. You can then zero in on those numbers and find different activities to help them become more fluent. Make it a daily or nightly routine. Ask math questions when you’re at the grocery store, cooking at home, or playing games as a family. Most importantly, keep the conversations about math positive and fun!
Do you have a math activity for this age group? Please share with us below!
Leave a Reply.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant/social media co-ordinator at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.
Fun Fact: Her and Julie (see above) are also sisters :)