Often I have experienced parents who have decided the mathematical fate of their children by the age of 7 or 8. Most of the comments are based on their success or lack thereof on mad minutes and other rapid recall fact assessments. The particular import placed on the results of a mad minute (a math facts skill assessor and developer) which occupies less the 5% of the instructional time is troubling. Equally so, the lack of the role of developmental readiness in engagement with the complexity and variability of more advanced math is alarming. I believe it is important for kids to learn their facts.
(A rant within a rant)
I know of schools which are beginning to remove fact education as they feel this occupies too much time to learn and most children and adults have devices at the ready should they need to perform a calculation. While I have admiration for the time this frees up to do more advanced application and problem solving, I am concerned by reliance on outside devices and forgoing the personal training and brain development. I also see the math fact discussion akin to the cursive writing and analog clock discussion. While I feel that a can argue intelligently on both sides, I feel that we cannot ignore the loss that will occur when these pieces of the curriculum that were core when we were educated, become extinct in our classrooms.
Furthermore I believe that being able to quickly access your facts allows students more time for the more complex operations or thinking that it requires to solve ever more challenging problems. But I do not believe faster is smarter is more successful in math. I think there is one catch to this may be a problem of a faulty attribution. I think that with this as with any endeavor, early success breads confidence, and confidence breads an attitude of facing challenges by “leaning in” as opposed to seeing obstacles to which we “shy away.”
With the preceding math brain dropping complete, I was very excited to open my RSS feed this morning and the see the great post by Mrs. Bright, “How Does Speed and Performance Relate to Being Good at Math?” (Click the link for the full article, but here are a few of the lines that resonated with me)
- Americans are pretty convinced that if you are fast at math and don’t make mistakes then you are “good” at math.
- How does speed and performance relate to being good at math? It doesn’t.
- The speed at which you can do math relates to your math fluency, not how “good” you are at math.
I quickly shared this post with my 3rd-8th grade math team and my PLN on twitter. The response has been immediate and positive. If we all know this intellectually, it is essential that we start modeling and discussing it with our students. Is being fast and accurate and admirable condition, sure. Is the same as being successful, no way.