Current Research on Learning Mathematics Research Icon

Computational Fluency

Certain procedures and algorithms in mathematics are so basic and have such wide application that they should be practised to the point of automaticity. Computational fluency in whole number arithmetic is vital.
(Ball et al. 2005, p. 1056)

The ability to work fluently with numbers is important for a variety of everyday uses. To build computational fluency, students need repeated yet varied practice. Effective practice should involve a series of problem-based activities that address the same basic ideas, but in different ways (Van de Walle 2004).

Speed should not be the focus of student performance, for example through drills and testing situations. Practice should occur over a number of class periods, until students have a solid understanding of the theory and can independently demonstrate their understanding through a variety of practical applications.

Reasoning and pattern searching are never facilitated by restricting time. Some children simply cannot work well under pressure or in situations that provoke stress.  Speed tests have been most popular for tests of basic facts. Although speed may encourage children to memorize facts, it is effective only for students who are goal-oriented and who can perform in pressure situations. Speed in a testing situation is debilitating for many and provides no positive benefits… In every instance, timed tests reward few and punish many. They can have a lasting negative impact on student attitudes. They should be avoided whenever possible.
(Van de Walle 2004, p. 146)