The National Curriculum aims for pupils to ‘become fluent in the basics of mathematics. This should be done through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex maths problems, so that pupils develop understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately.
What is fluency?
A pupil with mathematical fluency is:
1. Flexible in their approach
2. Accurate in their knowledge and recording
3. Efficient in their strategies
A common misconception is that fluency relies on the continuous, silent practice of formal calculations. While there may be a place for this kind of practice in the curriculum, pupils are usually reciting and practising without understanding, and are unlikely to remember and apply the methods used in other situations.
So, what can you do to develop fluency in your classroom?
There are three key approaches to developing fluency in the classroom – talking, playing, and practising, negotiating and convincing.
We need to talk as teacher to pupil, pupil to teacher and ultimately pupil to pupil. Children need to talk in order to:
• Develop their abilities to form opinions and convince
• Pose questions to develop their understanding
• Use and expand their mathematical vocabulary
A great way to develop maths talk is to expose children to a range of problems that can be discussed and explored in an unthreatening environment. Some of our favourite online resources to do this include:
NRICH aims to enhance students’ experience of the maths curriculum by offering challenging, inspiring and engaging activities. Each activity develops mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills while showing rich mathematics in meaningful contexts.
Transum, designed for both Primary and Secondary teachers, contains a wide variety of fun challenges for pupils to solve. We particularly love the ‘Starter of the Day’ activities as a way of warming up our mathematical brains.
3. YouCubed Tasks
YouCubed, created by Dr Jo Boaler (author of ‘The Elephant in the Classroom’) hosts a huge variety of mathematical ‘tasks’ to engage learners. Although designed to meet the American curriculum, these activities still cover key, universal mathematical concepts.
The CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) approach developed by American psychologist Jerome Bruner has gained much recognition in recent years.
This approach builds children’s knowledge by exploring concepts firstly with physical (concrete) objects before representing these items as (pictorial) images and diagrams. Once this understanding has been developed, pupils move to the symbolic (abstract) stage.
The CPA approach also allows pupils to move backwards and forwards through the 3 stages as needed.
PRACTICE, NEGOTIATE AND CONVINCE
It’s important that children have opportunities to model, explore and convince others in order to develop a variety of mathematical strategies.
One resource that promotes these kinds of activities is the Rapid Recall Whiteboard – a series of double-sided A3 whiteboards designed to promote discussion and maintain fluency as well as hit all key National Curriculum ‘Number’ objectives.
While the Rapid Recall Whiteboards can be used in many ways, a firm favourite by many teachers is to have children work in pairs and take it in turns to convince their partner of their answers to the questions posed on the board.