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Content: Scaffolding for Fluency

Memorizing “the times tables” is a familiar task for many, often required in schools. While the idea of memorization is widely accepted, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics challenges this norm, emphasizing the importance of fluency rather than rote memorization. This shift in perspective aligns with broader state and national standards, urging educators to foster a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. This article explores the concept of fluency and offers insights into scaffolding multiplication facts for students in grades 3-5. 

READ: Combining Explicit Strategy Instruction and Mastery Practice to Build Arithmetic Fact Fluency 

Understanding Fluency

What does it mean to be fluent in something.  I am sure you are fluent some task or skill.   Maybe it’s a different language that can understand with ease and efficiency or maybe it’s car mechanics that you can figure out and solve on the spot with the right tool and precision. Having fluency over the small things that make up that language or car mechanics can help you if you want to have a deeper understanding of the topic. The same is true for kids with Math!

In grades 3-5, the goal is for students to develop fluency in multiplying whole numbers.  

Math fact fluency is a crucial step in making sense of math, promoting a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.

Scaffolding Ideas

Because memorizing the times tables is so common a task, and because so many students have trouble with it, the web offers lots of scaffolding. You can work with your teacher (or team) to assemble a toolkit from these sources. A useful flash-card style drill appears at  https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/math-trainer-multiply.html.

If suitable, work with the students in short sessions. At this site you can vary session length (from 10 seconds to 10 minutes) and you can vary the problem cutoff time (time allowed before the program treats non-response as an error) from 2 seconds to 8 seconds.

Introduce concepts like repeated addition and skip counting to enhance understanding.

Read through this lesson on skip counting from the state of Connecticut on how to understand skip counting and teach it to early math learners to support their fluency.

Emphasize the relationship between multiplication and division, using examples to reinforce conceptual understanding.
We love how Jeff Lisciandrello of Room to Discover demonstrates how to connect these two concepts together. See a link to his work here.

Explore online resources, including YouTube skip counting videos, and consider traditional flash cards with a strategic focus on challenging facts.
We love this resource: Multiplication Machine

Explain and explore patterns within multiplication, such as the nine times table pattern, to enhance appreciation for mathematical structures.

Utilize interactive methods, like finger-based patterns for the nine times table, to engage students and make learning more tangible


Module: Helping with Instruction

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