Posted in beginner teachers

Math Facts: Fluency vs Mastery

I had a conversation with a friend about his principal’s request. The principal believes that his students standardized tests scores are low because the students don’t know their multiplication facts. I’m not saying that the principal is wrong in saying so because we know that knowing math facts can help further along more complicated ideas. The principal believes that fixing this “problem” will increase scores and in order to fix this, he is requesting my friend to administer TIMED TESTS. I can only remember giving out a timed test twice in my 8 years of teaching math and once was by the request of the students and the other was for fun.

Unfortunately my friend, like many new teachers, is not in the position to disagree with his principal. To be in compliance, he will administer them. My advice to him was practice through number strings. Practice through math talks. Students need to see conceptual understanding for math to make sense, for math to be important. When we make sense of things, they feel like they can do it. Giving out the timed tests after practicing will make more sense to the students as a check point. More number strings and math talk will make more sense as students see a concrete growth on their timed tests and even if they don’t see that test score go up, their understanding has grown more than through the timed tests.