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Here's something new for us, and it could grow into something bigger. Experts keep telling us that math fluency does not always translate to speed. They talk about how, for years, teacher have administered timed tests - for us, involving 100 multiplication problems in five minutes. I've not allowed myself to turn away from that thinking.
I know what fluency means. It means overlearning. It's as if your hand can write the answer before your brain can constantly process the problem. That's all I ask from your children.
If the experts are to be believed, I'm asking for pie in the sky.
Mathematician Bill Davidson puts together these Sprints to assist students with improving their fluency in math. At first look, sprints, if executed properly, are different; one may even wonder what's happening, but even though it's different, that doesn't mean it's off base. In fact, different fits in quite well with my own teaching personality and methods.
I'm leaving out some of the steps, and you're certainly free to explore Mr. Davidson's website for more information.
Between the two sprints, the teacher leads the class in a physical activity that reviews the multiples of given numbers. Hoggatteers seemed to really enjoy the physical activity that accompanied this, and they did quite well with saying the multiples as we did it for the first time. I think they're even looking forward to the next time we do this.
Sprints, while they may resemble traditional timed tests, are not traditional. In fact, each step of the sprint is carefully calculated for a purpose:
- Making it like a speed race is to reinforce the idea that we are working toward automaticity.
- Instructing the class to work on the remaining problems after checking the papers, lets students know there's no reason to be lazy during the first minute, since they'll need to do the rest anyway.
- A brisk physical activity in between the two sprints, increases the heart rate and adds to the excitement.
- A slower cool-down activity calms the stress and decreases anxiety before the second sprint.
- Doing a second reinforces the concept of improvement.
- We celebrate success after the first sprint, and improvement after the second. Both high achievers and students who improve can feel successful.
While Mr. Davidson recommends doing sprints as often as daily, I will probably alter how we approach fluency each day. If it works, we may do different sprints daily to reinforce some of those other skills students are expected to gain in the fourth grade (yes, even multiplication and division).