What is fact fluency?
An important goal for third graders is to develop fluency with multiplication and division by the end of the school year. Fact fluency is the ability to think of numbers flexibly and respond accurately in about 3 seconds without resorting to non-efficient strategies (like counting on their fingers or drawing a picture).
Why should flash cards and timed tests be avoided?
Timed tests and flash cards encourage memorization of facts without understanding. Expecting students to memorize their facts without extensive practice with efficient strategies will lead to anxiety and frustration for students. Also, students who are being forced to memorize their facts with these tools will feel that there are many, many facts to learn without seeing the numerous relationship between the facts.
What will lead to students developing fluency?
During the beginning of 3rd grade, the focus should just be on building understanding of multiplication and division. Students need to progress through the concrete, representational and abstract stages to develop a solid understanding of these two operations. The goal is to move students toward using more efficient strategies to solve, but they do not need to be fluent at this point. In the coming multiplication and division units, students will dive deeper into understanding and using efficient strategies that will begin to lead them toward fluency. These strategies will help students see the relationships between the basic facts.
For more information about fact fluency and why flash cards and timed tests should be avoided, check out these websites: