Invitation to Set Up a Math Fluency Toolbox

Welcome parents, grandparents, family, and friends who are helping a child with math homework. One would think that it is summer and school is far from the mind but my encounter this weekend with a former colleague has become one of many I have experienced – and usually takes place at a social function. In this case, we met at a wedding.

The colleague was concerned about her grandson’s second-grade math homework she helped him with last school year. She described her grandson as being passionate about baseball – knowing the names of every player on every team. She wished that her grandson would be as passionate about learning math. Would his disinterest in math continue in third grade?

There was concern that the way she learned math was not the way students are being taught today. She asked why her grandson had to represent a number as a sum of numbers in different ways. For example – why did her grandson have to represent 20 as the sum of 10 +10, 4+16, 1+19?  I did not have her grandson’s homework, but it sounded like the second-grade teacher was using a number bond strategy to help students understand number facts by finding solutions to addition problems. A bigger concern in helping her grandson was connecting his passion of baseball to math in some way.

This scenario is at the heart of Navigating MathLand as it represents the disconnect between learning passions in life, like baseball, and passion for learning mathematics. Wouldn’t it be great if the number bonds could be connected to winning a baseball game where one team has 10 runs and the other team has 7 runs; how many runs does the losing team need to make up to tie the game and the win? What inning did the winning team score the most runs what is the scoring trend for the game? How might the batting order influence the outcome as far as who the better hitters are?

Yes, worksheets with number bonds (trees of horizontal) may be tedious, but not if it is applied to a real life situation. There could be a math app/program that creates number bond problems using baseball game stats! The purpose would be to quickly come up with a number of runs needed to win the game- a fluency exercise using addition and subtraction facts.

I gave my colleague the promotional flier for my book, Navigating MathLand: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Through the Maze. What she can do as a grandma to support her grandson’s fluency in numbers would be to relate baseball team members to the stats that make them star athletes. She could create a fluency toolbox of tasks that are related to baseball-  stats related to American League Standings – win/lose, last ten games, losing streak, etc.; all number bond related stats.

In a 21st century school, a second grader interested in baseball would come to school, sit at his/her kiosk and be asked to solve number bond questions related to baseball stats; or better yet, asked to take the current stats and create and solve number bond questions. The student would then take a timed “sprint,” solving as many number bond problems in a set period of time-say 50 in three minutes.

There would be immediate feedback to the student as to how many he/she did correctly, with a mastery performance goal. The student’s teacher would receive the daily feedback on the student’s progress and plan instruction for the day. The parents would receive the same report on the “fluency phone app”. Individualized homework would be created for the student to support specifically what is needed for mastery of the skill or concept.

Your thoughts are welcomed regarding how schools can support each child’s learning of mathematics in a 21st-century school setting. What do we need to change?  What do we need to keep the same? Please join me in the journey of navigating MathLand.



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