Fluency Without Fear - Youcubed.org

Introduction
A few years ago a British politician, Stephen Byers, made a harmless error in an interview. The right honorable minister was asked to give the answer to 7 x 8 and he gave the answer of 54, instead of the correct 56. His error prompted widespread ridicule in the national media, accompanied by calls for a stronger emphasis on ‘times table’ memorization in schools. This past September the Conservative education minister for England, a man with no education experience, insisted that all students in England memorize all their times tables up to 12 x 12 by the age of 9. This requirement has now been placed into the UK’s mathematics curriculum and will result, I predict, in rising levels of math anxiety and students turning away from mathematics in record numbers. The US is moving in the opposite direction, as the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) de-emphasize the rote memorization of math facts. Unfortunately misinterpretations of the meaning of the word ‘fluency’ in the CCSS are commonplace and publishers continue to emphasize rote memorization, encouraging the persistence of damaging classroom practices across the United States. Mathematics facts are important but the memorization of math facts through times table repetition, practice and timed testing is unnecessary and damaging. The English minister’s mistake when he was asked 7 x 8 prompted calls for more memorization. This was ironic as his mistake revealed the limitations of memorization without ‘number sense’. People with number sense are those who can use numbers flexibly....

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