Mathematical Fluency Part One by @Mroberts90Matt

As I write this I am sat in the lovely evening sun at a lovely, quiet B&B in the countryside near Alton Towers… Yes the Alton Towers which had been shut today and will be tomorrow, the first two days of the 4 day getaway my wife and I are having from the kids we’ve had planned for months… Typical. Fortunately we have other plans with the Tree Top Challenge, Water Park and Spa the next couple of days, which are open, so hopefully we can do the main Theme Park on Saturday… Wish us luck!

In the National Curriculum, one of the aims in the Maths area states:

“become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics, including through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, so that pupils develop conceptual understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately.”

In my school we recently had Ofsted. However, this was not a usual whole school Ofsted inspection. It was a Maths Subject Inspection. Reception, Year 2 and Year 4 were observed in Maths sessions and books from Year 1, Year 3 and Year 5 were scrutinised. A learning walk also took place throughout the whole school. The feedback was generally positive, areas to work on of course, but good.

One thing that seemed to be a buzz word, or a focus on the inspection was this ‘fluency’. The definition of fluent online is ‘smoothly graceful and effortless’. In looking at the aim in the National Curriculum, it seems to refer to bring able to understand why methods work in Maths (not just go through the motion of doing the method) and apply the method to appropriate questions and problems. So how do we develop Mathematical fluency in children? Do we give them a list of calculations? I hope all educators reading educational blogs, even my lowly blog, would know this is not sufficient (although maybe occasionally required). Over the next few weeks i will post an entry that offers a way to develop mathematical fluency in the classroom. These ideas are only a few that I have tried or come across that have potential. If you have others I would love to hear them.

1. Tutorial
It is well documented that we learn 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and so on… But we learn 95% of what we teach others. So the question was for me then ‘How could I get my class to teach others in a way that will include all?’ Of course I could go down the route of whole class presentation… But if I were a10 year old child I would struggle to stand up and teach my peers the basics of long division. Teaching to groups is always fun, less intimidating. The question that method throws up is how could I accurately assess if each individual child had met the LO when different groups are teaching each other at once? To have each group teach other one by one so I could listen to every child would be too time consuming. So what?

I was led to an app called Explain Everything which was perfect.

An example of the app in use

The app allows the user to create a video whilst using a drawing tool or a highlighting tool and images. This gave the perfect opportunity for the children to ‘teach’ someone how to use skills in Maths. In doing this, the children themselves become increasingly competent, developing their fluency.

This video not only gives the children an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and purposeful activity, but it can also serve as a future stimulus to remember previous learning. An example of this in action is when we learnt about long division. Fluency begins in internalising the basics and the children had not yet learnt this skill. So, after teacher input and practise with feedback, the children created their ‘Long Division Tutorials’ – these are some examples:

This was successful because, months later, just before the SATs, I taught a lesson where the children had to opportunity to revisit this skill by applying it to a problem solving activity. After recognising the problem required long division, one child said “Oh, I looked at our videos recently to make sure I remembered this!” She then proceeded to solve the problem. Fluency.

photo credit: DSCF0613 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Explain Everything for iPad Screen via photopin (license)


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