Speed Does Not Matter
Got a fear of Maths or had a fear of Maths?
How many horror stories have you heard of occasions when people were made to feel inadequate in a Maths class?
The research stacks up!! Speed does not matter in mathematic achievement! Fast recall of maths facts is not what it means to be strong at mathematics. Educators need to build learning cultures and break damaging stereotypes.
Jo Boaler (2015) has published a fabulous article outlining ‘Fluency without Fear’. She states ‘Mathematics facts are important but the memorisation of math facts through times table repetition, practice and timed testing is unnecessary and damaging’.
Math facts are a small part of mathematic learning and thinking. Math facts are best learnt through many different ways and situations where students can make connections to self and the world. Learning and thinking through inquiry and self discovery are important as math learning is constructional. While useful to hold some math facts in the memory, having number sense is seen to be far more beneficial. ‘Number sense includes learning math facts along with gaining a deep understanding of numbers and how they relate to each other’ (Boaler, 2015). Number sense is the building blocks for all higher maths learning, adapting to real life maths problems and using mathematical thinking in any situation. Memorising facts can be useful in mathematics learning, however research has found that memorising facts faster or easy doesn't lead to higher achieving. Teachers need to build a classroom culture where speed is not seen as a mathematical skill to determine success.
From past experience or stories told by others it is widely known that timed math test are stressful and lead to maths anxiety! Maths anxiety has been known to start as young as 5 years old and can last a life time. When educators put students in stressful situations they grow to dislike maths.
‘In recent years brain researchers have found that the students who are most successful with number problems are those who are using different brain pathways” (Boaler, 2015). Students solved problems using both memorisation and a range of strategies, showing a better transfer of knowledge to new situations. Knowing all this information is it important when teaching number sense and facts to never emphasise speed!!!
Successful mathematicians including Laurent Schwartz are known for being ‘slow’! They estimate, take time to calculate and think deeply about the situation and maths problem. These are the roles models and figures that should be shown to mathematic students.
Activities to develop Number Sense and Fact
‘Magic Beans’: 10 magic beans that are spray painted gold on one side. Throw the beans down and look at they beans. Making connections to ’10 buddies or friends of 10 facts’. e.g 6 of mine are gold and 4 are normal. So 6 and 4 is 10.
Dice Addition: Roll two dice and add them together.
Students can count or use strategies and fact knowledge to solve the problem.
Making and seeing arrays in Multiplication: Using a square grid. Students roll 2 dice and make a multiplication sum. They then colour in the squares to make an array. e.g.. 2x3= 6. Students colours 2 groups of 3 totalling in 6 squares.
Resources and further reading:
Youcubed clip: Jo Boaler.
Boaler, J. (2015), Fluency without Fear, Standford University, youcubed website