Fact fluency—a vital building block of mathematical work—is the ability
to automatically recall the answers to basic addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division combinations from memory and without
counting. As kids progress through the grades and work with larger
numbers and more complex problems and concepts, those who don’t have a
solid base of fact fluency can struggle, using precious mental energy to
do simple calculations, leaving them with less left to problem solve or
think about “big” mathematical ideas. Last month, we began a new K-5
initiative: the Cambridgeport Fact Fluency Challenge. Our goal is to
increase the fact fluency of all students and, at the same time, help
them develop a growth mindset based on the idea that we are all capable
of growing and improving if we assess our strengths and challenges, then
set goals and make plans for achieving them.
If you’ve been to
the cafeteria lately, you may have noticed some big rocket ships with a
bunch of numbers on them taped to the back windows. (If you haven’t
noticed them, take a look next time you’re in the building.) They are
the Fluency Challenge graphs we will use to chart the progress we make
by grade-level and whole-school, as we blast toward our fluency goals.
Next to each graph, you’ll find a sign detailing the fluency
expectations for each grade level. In the next week or so, you will also
see grade-level graphs in the hallways near your children’s classrooms,
and kids will receive personal fact graphs, which they’ll use to track
their own progress with whichever facts they are working on.
February break, students in Grades 1-5 took their first challenge for
all operations required for their grade. (There are kindergarten fluency
goals, and teachers will be supporting and monitoring progress toward
those goals, but kindergarten students will not be part of the bi-weekly
challenges, and their data will not be included in the graphs.) Based
on those results, teachers have given each Grade 1-5 student a specific
set of facts to practice using a variety of resources, including flash
cards with “clues,” targeted practice activities, and web-based computer
programs. Every two weeks, students will complete another challenge and
chart their progress. We’ve created structures to allow this work to be
done in school time, but we encourage you to contact your child’s
teacher to get some ideas about what you can do at home to support them.
Feel free to check in with teachers or me
for more details. And remember to ask your child what they’re working
on, and check those rocket graphs regularly to see the progress we make
toward increasing fact fluency for all!