Improving Fluency in Maths in a Post Lockdown Primary Classroom

Lockdown impacted us all, but as teachers we have seen that lockdown had a greater impact on some children. We all know that good, rapid mental recall provides the foundations to all areas of the maths curriculum. With a growing pressure for children to ‘master’ their curriculum, they must firstly be able to recall facts with little hesitation. This is often referred to as ‘fluency’. 

Also, we’ve probably all heard that if children have not mastered their number facts by the time they leave primary school, evidence suggests that they never will. So, how can we achieve this effectively in post lockdown era? 

Is rote learning the solution?

You’ll know that there’s plenty of research out there suggesting that a rote and repetitive approach to learning can be very effective. As useful as methods such as chanting, singing or counting aloud can be surely, they don’t allow for children to effectively internalise the number facts that they are learning? I would argue that children simply learning a list of facts by rote holds no meaning to the child. If something is meaningful to us, we’re much more likely to remember it. This begs the question, if they can’t explain what they are reciting then is that a true fluency of facts? 

Here are my favourite games:

There’s plenty of maths games and tools out there to support children with learning and internalising their maths facts.

As a maths leader in a Kent primary school, here are my top 4 games and tools:

1) ‘Splat the fact’ - This is a fun and interactive way of getting children involved with learning simple maths facts. In KS1 this could be used to reinforce number bonds to 5, 10, 20 or even 100. Write the number bonds on a whiteboard, flipchart page or flash cards. An adult or partner calls out a number and the children in the small group race to be the first to ‘splat’ the corresponding number bond. Simple but effective. 

2) ‘Maths tennis’ – This can be a great mental, oral starter for your maths lesson. Children pair up and bat number facts back and forth to one another. This could be used with anything from number bonds to multiplication and division facts and is great across both KS1 and KS2. 

3) ‘Odd one out’ – Display a series of numbers and ask the children to discuss which number is the odd one out and why? This can also be an effective assessment tool too, allowing you to see who knows what in your classroom. I’ve also used this with shape, as it gets the children discussing similarities and differences and using great mathematical vocabulary outside of your lesson. 

4) ‘Fantastic 5’ – Present the children with 5 different maths concepts to solve when you have a gap in your school day. These can actually include any aspects of the maths curriculum. We use it as an opportunity to keep a concept ticking between units in class. You could adapt your five maths questions to target anything from fluency to reasoning, where could ask the children to explain using their mathematical vocabulary. 

Aside from my favourites, use every opportunity you have to reinforce rapid recall of maths facts. Whether it’s time to line up or a transition in your school day, use every minute to your advantage! 

Parental involvement

Get the parents of your class involved with fun and interactive ways of reinforcing facts at home. Parents often lack confidence with maths themselves and this can often be because things have moved a lot since they were at school! Workshops and learn-alongside sessions can be great ways of getting parents involved in their child’s learning. However, during the current Covid-19 crisis this probably won’t be possible in your school. 

How are you engaging parents with learning during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

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