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 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.Continue reading →
When we develop digital solutions at Victory, we want the end user to experience visuals as intuitively as possible. Because space is always at a premium, visuals and text are equally important. The visuals need to immediately convey information and tell an extended story. When used well, they not only save space on the page (a picture is worth a thousand words), they also inspire confidence in the reader (or should we say “viewer”) by subtly conveying that the overall message will also be easy to understand.
Visual literacy is experiencing resurgence. It is defined many ways in different disciplines, but a good general definition is:
visual literacy: a set of skills used when a person either sees or produces images in order to interpret them, discover a fuller meaning, and make emotional connections.
From our research, there are five important things to consider about visual literacy:
5 Keys to Visual Literacy
Observing elements in complex images and determining how they relate
Developing questions to ask about the images
Understanding how different visual approaches convey different meanings
Identifying the emotional impact of different techniques on the viewer
Interpreting an author’s intent based on the choices made to deliver the message
We have become proficient at developing performance tasks closely aligned to NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Of course, a good performance task aligns to standards across multiple disciplines. The following task was developed for middle grades and for these learning goals.
Please watch the video and then try the performance task. We’d love to hear your feedback!
You have been asked to make the jump safe. The video below explains how to set up a simulation to investigate.
Click “Playground” in the PhET® simulation below and set up a jump as shown in the video. Remember to set friction to zero and always release the skateboarder from a height of 5 meters.
Then modify the setup to make the jump safe, where “safe” is defined as converting less than 1/4 of the total energy into thermal energy.
Use your observations of the skateboarder’s motion to explain why reducing thermal energy transfer reduces the risk of injury.
The Skate Park simulation was developed by PhET.
PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder, http://phet.colorado.edu.
In this video, Victory’s editorial directors for STEM and ELA/Social Studies discuss what’s new and what’s next in curriculum development. Below are links to resources alluded to in the discussion.
It has always been true that technological advances change education. Here we examine more deeply why these changes take place and discuss (in historical context) how new technologies have changed how we develop curriculum. We also share specific exemplars of quality curriculum development and pedagogical practice. Continue reading →