A teacher assigns a word problem involving 84 apples and boxes. “How many apples can fit into 2, 3, 4, 7, and 12 boxes?” asks the teacher. Some students start counting on their fingers, some sketch boxes and fruit, and others use tally marks. But there’s another handful of students who quickly find the number of apples per box size, left with time to sit back and enjoy a real-life bite of a Red Delicious or Granny Smith while they wait for their peers to finish solving. What’s their secret? Math fact fluency.
What is math fact fluency?
Math fact fluency refers to the ability to recall the basic facts in all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) accurately, quickly, and effortlessly. When students achieve math fact mastery (automaticity), they can retrieve facts from long-term memory without conscious effort or attention, which allows them to devote more time and effort to problem-solving and learning new concepts.
Taking it one step further, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) notes the importance of
procedural fluency, an essential and necessary component of “developing mathematical proficiency and mathematical agency.” With procedural fluency, students can apply procedures “efficiently, flexibly, and accurately” across all four operations, along with other K-12 procedures, such as solving for the unknown in algebraic equations. This allows students to “transfer procedures to different problems and contexts, build or modify procedures from other procedures, and recognize when one strategy or procedure is more appropriate to apply than another” (NCTM, 2023).
Why is math fact fluency important?
Extensive research underscores the critical role of fact fluency in elementary school
math and beyond; it allows students to
free up brainpower or working memory to complete more complex math, such as word problems or multi-step equations. Multiplication fluency is also shown to impact success with fractions, and retrieval speed is a known predictor of success on standardized tests, math concept problems, data interpretation, and mathematical reasoning.
How can I build math fact fluency?
Cognitive science shows students develop fluency with “number combination” practice, such as multiplication tables and single-digit addition. But how do you structure daily math lessons to help students achieve math fact fluency? Here are some simple teaching strategies to help your students become math fact fluent in no time.
1. Daily Practice Makes Progress
To hone any skill, you need an ample amount of practice. Building math fact fluency is no different. Provide students the opportunity to engage in daily math fact practice. Even just 10-15 minutes a day can help students achieve mastery. And with
ExploreLearning Reflex, students can get daily practice at home or at school.
2. Improve Mental Math Skills
When mastering math facts, it’s important to teach mental math strategies. In addition, be sure to teach students various ways to make ten as well as how to double math facts. Other strategies, like being familiar with math fact families, can help with mastering addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The Reflex system is based on a
fact family approach that builds on and reinforces essential math concepts such as the commutative property.
3. Get to Talking About Math
Math fact fluency isn’t just about rote memorization. Allow students to build number sense through number talks and
math discourse, where students can share their reasoning about how they solved a math problem or decomposed a larger number in various ways. For example, have students think of five ways to form the number 54. Students can partner up and compare the different ways they solved to find the same answer. Perhaps they recognized 50 + 4, 18 x 3, 20 + 20 + 14, or 9 x 6.
4. Make Math Facts Fun With Games
1+1 can be fun! Get students excited about math fact practice through online and offline games. Offline games, like math fact bingo or math fact scoot, engage students in fun and competitive math fact practice. Many online programs, like Reflex, provide students with math fact practice that doesn’t even feel like learning. Reflex’s fun-filled
math fact games allow students to practice and play at their own pace.
5. Switch Up Math Fact Practice
Math fact practice doesn’t have to look the same every day. Incorporate a variety of ways students can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Sing a math fact tune, get hands-on with math manipulatives, or jot down and journal about math facts.
6. Track Progress and Celebrate Success
Ensure your students are on the path to math fact success. Take the time to monitor student progress through daily work and informal and formal assessments. You can even invite students to track their own fact fluency journeys. Don’t forget to celebrate growth and achievements! Reflex makes tracking and rewarding milestones easy through
powerful reporting features and certificates for individual and classroom achievements. Plus, students are motivated throughout their Reflex gameplay as they earn tokens for their efforts and improvements.
How Reflex Builds Math Fact Fluency
Adaptive and individualized,
ExploreLearning Reflex combines research-proven methods and innovative online technology to provide the most effective math fact fluency solution available. Full of games that students love, Reflex meets all students at their learning levels and helps them quickly gain fact fluency and confidence while offering teachers and administrators insightful reporting.
Studies have shown that after a year of using Reflex, students showed improvement in both math state assessments and test scores1. Compared to classrooms not implementing Reflex, a higher proportion of students using Reflex daily achieved proficiency than their non-Reflex peers2.
A few factors behind Reflex’s success:
system is based on a fact family approach that builds on and reinforces important mathematical concepts such as the commutative property and the relationship between the operations. When students understand the conceptual connections between facts, their progress to automaticity is accelerated.
highly adaptive and individualized so that students of all ability levels have early and ongoing success. In addition, the system consistently rewards students for both their effort and progress toward automaticity. They come to understand that if they are willing to put in the work, they really can succeed in math.
Reflex interactive fluency development games are different. Unlike typical math fact games, they require students to engage in increasingly complex and fast-paced decision making. Once students answer facts fluently while achieving game objectives, you can be confident they are ready to learn new math concepts in your classroom.
1Cress, 2019. In a study of 2nd-grade students, students’ scores after using Reflex for one school year were significantly higher than the same students’ Star Math Assessment scores before the program.
2ExploreLearning, 2022. In the context of large losses in student’s math achievement, five schools within a Western region state that implemented Reflex between 2019 and 2022 saw a double-digit increase in proficiency on summative state assessments, compared to control schools matched on 2019 test scores.