How to build fluency in your classroom
Children can’t instantly use their mathematical knowledge without having to think about what they are doing. It’s the opportunities for practice that helps them reach an effortless stage of fluency where they can apply their knowledge to solve unfamiliar problems.
So what does effective fluency practice look like and how can you build it into your teaching?
Use regular sessions to build fluency
Give learners a chance to practice their skills with separate fluency sessions that happen at a different time to the daily maths lesson. Sessions usually last between 15 and 30 minutes and typically schools schedule them for four or five days a week.
Adding separate practice sessions with a focus on fluency gives learners the chance to work on maths in two different ways, without taking away from the work in the main lesson.
Your fluency sessions could be at a planned time each day: first thing in the morning, straight after lunch, or before or after assembly or break. If you teach younger children, try to grab any opportunity for fluency throughout the day.
Make every session count
Time with our learners is precious. If you’re going to dedicate extra time each day to maths, you need to make sure that time is used as effectively as possible. How can we decide which topics to cover when working on fluency?
One popular approach is to revisit topics taught last week, last month, last term, and last year. You could also revisit a topic already taught this year and then review one from last year (worked on at last year’s level) so that learners are ready for when you reach this topic in your teaching sequence.
Whole-class counting is another easy-to-include activity. Choose whatever increment is relevant to the year group and don’t underestimate the challenge or importance of counting in fractions, decimals or negative numbers, or starting on numbers other than zero. Finding opportunities to work on each of the four number operations during this activity also helps secure children’s learning.
Try games and quizzes
Low-stakes quizzes are increasing in popularity, and for good reason. Quizzes support learners’ recall skills of prior learning. My top tip is to create multiple choice quizzes with plausible wrong answers to each question. This encourages children to think about the answer they give and offers a moment to highlight common misconceptions.
Games and activities which encourage children to think are really effective alongside low-stakes quizzes. It’s important that fluency sessions don’t generate unnecessary written work — remember, you’re practicing not testing. The point is to have an impact on learner recall, not to increase teacher workload. In a maths mastery classroom, we want children to make connections between and within their learning in order to strengthen their understanding.