Question: What happens when the math coach's child begins the summer by taking a multiplication fluency assessment in which he answers 20 problems in 4.5 minutes when the fluency guideline is 20 problems in 1 minute?In case anyone else is in a similar predicament, here are a few resources to get you started...

Answer: Summer math! (Don't you wish you lived at my house?)

First, "fluency" does not equate memorization. If you're interested in the difference between "by memory" and "memorization," check out this article. Fluency means accurate, efficient, and flexible mathematical thinking. Think about reading fluency. A fluent reader is not just fast. 120 words-per-mind counts for nothing without comprehension. Fluent readers AND mathematicians are accurate, efficient, and flexible.

Although every child needs to master all three areas, he may demonstrate challenges in one area over the others. In our case, flexibility is an issue. Although my child knows some strategies for working with multiplication, it doesn't appear to be something that's been emphasized in his education. To that end, we are working to increase his strategy toolbox.

I pulled the Multiplication & Division Discussion Cards from Opening Eyes to Mathematics. (Cards are located on pp. 32-35 in this pdf, free from The Math Learning Center.) We flip through several cards a day and talk about what strategies could be used to solve a problem. For example:

What multiplication expression is represented here? (8 x 8)

How could we look at pieces of this array to help us solve the problem? Maybe we could see it as two parts: 8 x 5 and 8 x 3.

So 8 x 8 = (8 x 5) + (8 x 3) = 40 + 24 = 64

Or maybe you see it as two groups of 4 x 8:

What about this one? Could you use what you already know about 10 x 7 to help you figure out

9 x 7?

Strategies become critical when you get to larger multiplication problems, so this is definitely something we want to work on now.

Although fluency doesn't equate speed, it is generally expected that students be able to complete 20 problems in 1 minute to meet fluency standards. With the strategies in hand, I plan to assess his progress using the free online program, Xtra Math. I would not use this in isolation as I don't want to overemphasize speed, but when combined with visual models and strategies, it's a reasonable way for both of us to track his progress.

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