Summer 2017 Book Study-Week2Chp1

In the comments below, write your thoughts about Chapter 1.  Here are some questions to help:

Chapter 1: Math Running Records: A Framework for Fluency

How do you define math fact fluency?

Does your school define math fact fluency in the same way?

Do your students’ parents define fluency that way?

How do you teach students to develop fluency currently?


  1. Ann Elise

    I was a 5th grade teacher for 13 years. For all those years (although it has changed in the 3 years I’ve been a Math Coach), we graded Math with one number grade and then a grade for Math Facts (O-outstanding, S- satisfactory, N-needs improvement). About once a week I would give a timed test of 50 questions with one operation. We would then correct it together and the students would determine what their score was. That was it. Math facts, to me, were speed and accuracy. I recorded the N’s on the report card (it seemed like there were more and more of them every year) and I did absolutely nothing to help them develop their math fact fluency. I was a 5th grade teacher. I didn’t have time to have them work on math facts. Yup! Boy, have I changed my thinking in the past 3 years!

    I first learned about the third element of fluency, flexibility, when I saw our own Christina at an NCTM conference a couple of years ago. What she shared about breaking apart numbers into chunks that make the math more efficient was mind blowing. Then, I took a webinar with Dr. Nicki on Math Running Records which provided a journey for each operation and an assessment that would help me zoom in and figure out exactly what each student needed to work on, and I my world was changed forever! Since then I’ve given hundreds of running records and trained teachers and assistants to administer them. We can now have conversations about the abilities of our students and have a common language rather than just saying a student struggles with subtraction. The beauty of this is that the same strategies that work on the math facts translate to higher numbers and then fractions and decimals down the road. It’s brilliant!

    I have offered many parent nights to explain to them this “new” way we are teaching math as well as math facts, but unfortunately the turnout hasn’t been great. So I reach the parents I can. Many parents still want their children to memorize math facts which is perfectly fine, but I am sure when I assess students and realize they’ve memorized (I’m thinking of multiplication facts particularly here) their math facts that in part 2 when I interview them I give, for example, 4×12 if I’m checking the x4’s to see if they have any strategy that kicks in. Many of the students who have memorized them tell me, “I haven’t learned that one yet.” So then I know I still want them to work on x4 only with larger numbers and practice breaking it down into double double, by place value, or any other strategy that makes sense to them. I want to create well-rounded mathematicians who have speed, accuracy, and flexibility for each operation.

    We currently do Math Running Records with each student at least twice a year. We chose not to to the end of year benchmark this year because we were doing so much other testing. We have a 30 minute Math intervention time every day in which all students are working on some math skill they need to work on. We dedicated one day a week of this intervention time to be dedicated to math fact fluency. We used the results of the running records to make our small groups. We use math tools to show how the strategies can be used and then we play games that encourage that thought. We have found to provide many awesome fluency games that help develop this kind of strategic thinking.

    I’m looking forward to learning what you all have been doing when it comes to fluency!

  2. Wanda Johnson

    I would have to say that this book and idea of math running records is revolutionary for me. I teach in a small school and the thinking of teachers and parents is that of the whole memorization concept. Last year I introduced running records with reading and that was a new thought for all. I have wondered what the missing piece was in math.

    I especially appreciated the section on developing math power – beyond quick answers in the introduction. I truly long to see the thought behind the answers and I think that the running records offers the missing piece. One question I have is how does the math running records assessment fit into other assessments? What is a good schedule for these records? I did notice in the above comment how Ann Elise fits in her running records. That was very helpful.

    1. Ann Elise

      There are three main pillars to our math education – math fact fluency (how), word problem solving (when). and the standards (why). I feel like we have a responsibility as math teachers to help develop all three of these areas for our students. For my school, we use the running records to help us determine exactly what each student needs to work on to improve their speed, accuracy, and flexibility. For word problems, I created an assessment that has one question for each problem type based on CGI so that we can analyze the results to see which problem types are causing our students problems (I have shared those assessments within the CGI section of this community). In fact, our school goal this year was to focus on addition and subtraction. It was quite the process. We will continue again next year. Nothing simple about them when the unknown can be at any spot! I think the typical assessments our students take measure their understanding of the standards at their gradelevel. For Math, our school does NWEA MAP testing 3x a year and our state testing SBAC test once per year. I’m just so thankful we have an assessment that can help us really respond individually to the students’ needs!

  3. Jocelyn Albernaz

    Hi Everyone!
    I will be in away this week. I’ll be back on Wednesday. I will try to get caught up then. Hope you all have a Happy Fourth!

    1. Ann Elise

      Happy 4th to you, too!! Enjoy your time off!!
      🙂 Ann Elise

  4. Kelly Andrews

    My definition of fluency has evolved over my past four years as the math intervention teacher in my 2-4 building. Previously as a second grade teacher, I would have told you fluency was speed and accuracy, hence the Mad Minute was given daily in my classroom to measure my students’ progress. I encouraged fact practice for homework and did little else to teach or develop their math fluency. Since I memorized my facts, I assumed my students could, should, and would do the same. It wasn’t until I was hired for my current position as Math RtI teacher and started researching, that I realized math fluency has three components and the one I was overlooking; flexibility was huge! Now, I use Math Talks, games, and explicit instruction to teach fact strategies to improve my students’ fact fluency. Sadly, because most of my students lack number sense these strategies are often missed by them and require a lot of game play and talk for them to understand and possible use these strategies without my guidance. If I am not present, they almost always revert back to counting.

    For the most part, many teachers in my building continue to view fact fluency as I once did. They are frustrated with the amount of time it takes to teach strategies and with the demands of the curriculum simply want their students to “just know” the facts. I believe several teachers use a computer program which is a drill format focusing only on speed and accuracy. My guess is the parents in my district have a similar view. After all, this was how the learned their facts and assume it was the “right” way!

    1. Ann Elise

      I see the stress and demands of a challenging curriculum daily in my grade 3-5 school. The struggle is real so I totally understand why teachers wouldn’t be interested in investing a lot of time in something they consider to be less important than the grade level standards they know will appear on the high-stakes tests every year. I feel strongly, though, that we (as Christina once said in a webinar) need to slow down to go faster later. The very same strategies that are employed with basic facts are then applied to larger numbers going to the nearest ten or the nearest hundred and then nearest whole down the road. So, so important!

  5. Megan

    I’ve been out of town and am waiting for my book to arrive. I will jump in as soon as I can! I printed out the running records a few weeks ago to try to get a jump start on organization for the fall, and am looking forward to all of your experiences and input!

  6. Megan Purlee

    I attended a Math PD in October of 2015 and that was the first time I heard about flexibility being part of fluency. Before that, it was just speed and accuracy. I was the only person from my corporation who attended this training. Since then I have spent time learning more about real math and sharing that with the teachers and other coaches in my corporation. There are some ripples of change happening, but it took until this last school year for those to even start happening and it is not widespread by any means (yet!). We haven’t provided any education on fluency for parents, so I would assume the majority have speed and accuracy as their definition of fluency still as well. I have encouraged the teachers at my school to start by doing Number Talks daily. This year we only had one entire grade level (3rd) do them all year and they were singing praises about them by October. Some other teachers jumped in and started using them before the year was up. Next year all K-3 teachers are planning to use them. I also did a book study with Christina’s Fluency Through Flexibility book with the K-1 and Special Ed teachers at my school this year. Both K & 1 are planning on incorporating the 4 Number Relationship activities in their classrooms this upcoming year. So, that is where we are at and I am hopeful we will keep moving forward! I definitely see a need for the Math Running Records. We have A LOT of finger counting and head bobbing happening at our school! 🙂

    1. Ann Elise

      I love how the Number Talks use becomes contagious. The times when I lead a number talk for a classroom are my favorite times! I love how they encourage a climate of respecting various views and strategies. For me, the running records took on a similar contagious effect. It just takes a few brave souls to try them out and see how powerful they are!

  7. Tara Russell

    My definition of fluency has been a work in progress, because I didn’t always understand the fluency piece. I am not sure others in my district realize the importance of flexibility. I also used to have my students work through a series of math flash cards in this order; +0, +1, +2, doubles, partners of 10, 10 plus something. All students started at +0 and moved at their own pace as judged by a 1 minute verbal timed test. There was no accountability for which facts students already knew, strategic thinking, productive disposition etc. My hope is to continue the fluency conversation that I started this year with our administrators so that we can open the fluency conversation with our K-5 staff.

    1. Ann Elise

      Sounds wonderful! I have found with my work implementing running records and training others to do them, we now have a shared language to discuss students and their individual needs. So much more powerful than, “Johnny can’t subtract.” Don’t even know where to begin with that. It certainly is a journey for all involved, but so worth it!

  8. Lisa Mills

    I’m sorry I am a little behind in the book study. Took some time off at July 4th so I am trying to catch up! I have done some work with math facts – mainly using John Van deWalle’s strategies. However, these have never been implemented with any fidelity on my part or classroom teacher’s parts. yet, teacher’s complain that kids don’t know their facts. Lately, we have used – school wide – Xtra math and before that another web based app that mainly focuses on memorization. (I can’t recall the name right now!) One of my concerns is that we never seem to have time to teach facts yet we all agree that when kids don’t know them they struggle in math . Parents are generally concerned about math – all of it- not just the facts -because they often feel they can’t help their child on math homework. So very many times I hear, “I do the reading and Dad/grandma/someone else has to help with the math. I can’t do math.” I have often had the discussion that we do leveled reading groups yet we teach math whole group. The response is often that we can’t teach math the same way we do reading because kids need to hear the thinking of stronger students. So, does that man they don’t need that for learning reading? Something I ponder a lot! One question I have -it may be answered later but I am curious. When we do the math running record with the 3 sections do we do all 3 sections each time? I am wondering this as it seems that the 3rd part helps us give student ideas to try to become more efficient and then this interview later would we address those ideas we gave and see if they are trying them?

    1. Ann Elise

      I think that parents are a big piece of the puzzle, but I have yet found a way to share the ideas with many of them. I have offered monthly math nights to explore a certain operation, but I only get two parents to show up. I’m still thinking on how better to employ their help in getting students to master their math facts without the typical flashcard memorization way.

      I have found that I do the first part of the running record until I feel the student is really struggling, the second part until I know of a strategy they really need to work on (although I typically to up to the doubles plus 1 for addition to see if the 6+7 gets them to apply the doubles plus 1 or if the fingers come out), and I don’t usually to the third part. I believe student disposition is huge, but I do a lot of work in my classrooms on developing a growth mindset from Jo Boaler’s resources. Since I’m not their teacher (I’m the math specialist) I feel those disposition questions are best left for the teacher to keep track of the students’ thoughts.

  9. Betsy Frates

    I also am a bit behind. I am working a camp this summer and it is exhausting me. I am working hard to try to catch up here.
    My definition of fact fluency, like many others, has been speed and accuracy attained through memorization. When I first started teaching, I was introduced to ‘mad minute’. I adopted that right away and wanted the kids to record their own progress. I have just really had a big aha year as far as how much further kids can go when understanding numeracy through fact fluency that is speedy, accurate AND flexible. The kids that really understand how to decompose numbers and look at the problem before deciding which strategy to use efficiently, truly enjoy math. Our school all use the same math program but we as a district get together by grades rather than by schools when talking about the various concepts. While we have had conversations about facts in the past and the frustration of kids continuing to use their fingers, we have not come up with a solution (until recently). We have been playing games and really taking time to talk about different kids strategies for knowing their facts. It has made a world of difference in our class. We have also worked on educating parents about the power of games and to just ask their kids their facts during a short drive to the dentist, followed by the famous question – How do you know? I understand the importance of accuracy, speed and flexibility. My new definition.

    1. Ann Elise

      That’s awesome, Betsy, that you’re seeing the power of the flexibility! I, too, have loved being a part of the transformation in kids when they develop number sense and feel confident in their abilities. I have found Math Running Records to help tremendously by providing a roadmap on how I can get every student there!

  10. Torri Rankl

    I’m a late one as well. 🙂 Fact fluency in our school is all about speed and accuracy. I see the frustration in the teachers because it isn’t working. There is also stress put on the kids that is frustrating for teachers as well. I saw what Reading First did to kids and now we see it with math too. I love the idea of math running records. It works really well in reading and I am looking forward to using it in math as well. I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

    1. Ann Elise

      No problem at all about being late. As I’m sure you know, Christina has been swamped with her amazing virtual summit she created. She’s the only one who can upload materials to the site, so my subtraction and multiplication materials should be up soon! Stay tuned!

      I think you will love the changes you’ll see in student thinking but also educator conversations about students’ math abilities as a result of implementing the running records!

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