Math Fluency: Speed vs Efficiency

Some of our K-2 teachers had an amazing opportunity to work with Graham Fletcher today. One of the topics had to do with efficiency. What does an efficient math student look like? According to Graham, “mathematically efficient students can accomplish tasks with fewer steps but are not necessarily faster.” This reminds me of a term that seems to be misunderstood in elementary math classrooms: math fluency. Here’s a great article on the power of math games. In the article, Rutherford reminds us that math fluency “includes efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility with strategies.”

So, it’s not all about speed! What does this say about a common classroom sacred cow, TIMED MATH FACTS?

We know that in reading, fluency should not be measured solely by how fast a student can read. Reading fluency is built around factors such as accuracy, automaticity, prosody, effort, and phrasing.
Test this out. Ask a few elementary teacher friends what fluency looks like in math. I’m guessing all the answers will focus on speed. How did we get ourselves stuck in such a rut? Isn’t it time we looked at math facts and computational fluency in a similar, multi-faceted manner, just as we do in reading?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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