Tag Archives: Math

Is Automaticity a 21st-Century Math Skill?


Regardless of our age, we all share a common rite of passage in early education— the mastery of math facts. Although the way we practice math facts has changed over the years, we all remember doing them over and over again. For me, it was learning the multiplication tables by using physical flash cards, a task I often found rote and boring, and which I believed had no merit whatsoever. “Put a damper on my creativity,” I thought years later. Little did I know I was developing automaticity, a foundational skill critical to my future success not only as a learner but also in the workplace.

automaticity is a match skill

Automaticity is the ability to perform skilled tasks quickly and effortlessly without occupying the mind with the low-level details required to do it. Automaticity is attained through learning, repetition, and practice. In math, students have attained automaticity (also known as math fact fluency) when they can easily retrieve basic facts from their long-term memory in all four operations (+, −, ×, ÷) without conscious effort or attention.

Why Is Automaticity Making a Comeback?

Research has shown that automaticity is a building block for mastering higher-level math concepts. It helps students avoid math anxiety, and it is a significant predictor of performance on standardized tests. Fact retrieval speed as a predictor of performance is not limited to test items that directly assess computation skills; it also predicts performance on more conceptual problems that require students to solve word problems, interpret data, or exercise mathematical practices.

Automaticity is essential to turning basic skills into tools for future learning, which creates an independent learner who is self-confident and successful in his or her studies. Researchers see the difference between a struggling learner and an independent learner not just as the mastery of a skill but also the speed or fluency with which the skill can be performed.

If a child can’t automate a basic skill or has little fluency, he or she will experience limited success in quickly mastering new skills. This will cause ongoing frustration over the time it takes to accomplish a task and distracted learning. Having to think consciously about basic skills while doing a higher-level task results in a cognitive conflict that leads to fatigue. It can also cause a downward spiral where a learning problem can turn into an attention problem that then becomes a behavior problem.automaticity is a match skill Continue reading

A Three Dimensional Learning Task

In many recent projects, we have taken on the challenge of developing three-dimensional learning tasks and lessons. We often start with a close reading of the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). The instructional designers then meet with subject matter experts to design a task with learning outcomes that measure specific performance expectations. In the example below, the task was designed to meet these three-dimensional learning goals.

Three-dimensional learningWe have already blogged about using the PhET Skate Park simulation to develop a performance task. We decided to take another stab at it, as a proof of concept for a three dimensional learning task. This task is a bit more challenging than our first one.

Please watch the video and then try the performance task. We’d love to hear your feedback!

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EduGames for Developing Mathematical Practices

A little while ago we posted about using a game-like simulation for authentic assessment. We used a different approach with Drop Zone, a two-person EduGame Victory developed for the NCTM Calculation Nation web site. Here there’s no pretense of authenticity; the goal is simply to make adding fractions fun (and develop CCSS Mathematical Practices). Please watch this 4-minute video and use the Comments to give us feedback on this EduGame. You can also play against the computer or sign in to play a human.


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Talking to the Test: Rigor & Depth of Knowledge

Help us take the pulse of the education industry! Please click one radio button in the poll question. After submitting, you can see how other educators have responded.

Rigor is a concept that both Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards have brought into the spotlight. This brief video reviews the basics of Depth of Knowledge (DOK), which is one way test developers measure the rigor of test items.
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