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Mary Kate McNulty Literature Review for Graduate Thesis The Importance of Math Fact Fluency Research has

found that developing basic math fact fluency enhances students ability to learn, develop and/or apply advanced math skills and concepts (Axtell, Poncy, & Skinner, 2010, p. 342). According to Axtell et al., basic math facts are simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems (2010). Students need to master basic math facts to aid in paper-and-pencil, mental math, and estimation (Bielsker. Napoli, Sandino, & Wainshwell, 2001). Spending too much time solving basic facts affects the cognitive understanding of a problem, thus fluency aids in problem solving and critical thinking. This research supports the importance of math fact mastery. While accurate responses are important, they should not be the sole criteria when measuring the mastery of math facts; fluency should also be considered (Axtell, Bell, McCallum, & Poncy, 2009). Fluency is responding both accurately and quickly to a selected stimulus (Axtell et al., 2009, p. 527). After learning a new skill, a student practices and becomes more fluent until the skill becomes automatic. Automaticity is performance with little effort or use of cognitive resources (Axtell et al., 2009). According to Hamodey-Douglas, Marcinkiewicz, & Wittman, since the beginning of the 19th century, research states that the automaticity and fluency of knowledge brought about by repetitive practice is instrumental, not only in the acquisition and refinement of new skills for novice learners, but is the foundation for the mastery level performance shown by experts (Hamodey-Douglas et al., 1998, p. 480). Research shows that being fluent has several benefits. When having mastered math facts students can perform math tasks faster and with more accuracy (Greer &

Singer-Dudek, 2005). Students are able to work for longer and more continuous periods of time without distraction (Greer & Singer-Dudek, 2005). Fluency results in the understanding and development of new complex skills and better problem-solving (Greer & Singer-Dudek, 2005). Students who are fluent in basic math skills have less anxiety when it comes to math, are more likely to engage in math activities, and are able to recall and use basic math facts in their everyday lives (Adcock, Luna, Parkhurst, Poncy, Skinner, & Yaw, 2010). With low fluency there is an increase in time and effort spent on complex skills, which may hinder a true reading of a students skills on a timed assessment (Axtell et al., 2009). According to Hudson, Kadan, Lavin, & Vasquez, a deficiency in basic math facts typically leads to inaccurate computation that hinders a students problem-solving skills (Hudson et al., 2010). A student with low fluency working on a complex, multi-step problem that demands prolonged attention will be inefficient and will have difficulty completing the problem because of the limited capacity of his or her working memory. All of his or her attention and working memory will be focused on the basic computations rather than the complex problem (Adcock et al., 2010). According to the instructional hierarch model, students acquire the knowledge of a new skill through four stages (Axtell et al., 2009). The first stage is acquisition where there is a focus on how to develop accuracy. The second stage is the fluency building stage where there is a focus on being proficient. This is when the student performs the skill both quickly and accurately. The third stage is generalization where the student takes skills previously mastered and applies them to the new set of skills. The final stage is application where the student must adapt and apply the previously learned skill to a

new problem. As a student masters basic math skills through these four stages, he or she is then able to use these basic skills to master more abstract problems and become proficient with more complex skills. Research shows that once fluency is achieved, students tend to maintain accuracy of the skill (Axtel et al., 2009). It has been found that strategies that develop thinking help students memorize and master math facts (Hudson et al., 2010). The mastery of basic math facts creates a connection between an expression and a solution. When memorizing basic math facts, students must create a well-structured and connected body of knowledge, using their understanding of number sense which is learned at an early stage in school (Hudson et al., 2010, p. 22). Students learn math at a young age by activating prior knowledge and using that to bridge new concepts with those they know from their previous knowledge (Fife, 2003). It is important to help the students see meaning and relevance, which, in turn, will form connections to other parts of the brain (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 38). According to Bielsker et al., maintaining information is most successful when it can be connected with something already mastered (2001). Research clearly shows childrens facility in basic facts is enhanced by their first developing effective thinking strategies (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 38). Strategies need to be developed at a students own rate so that they are able to find meaning in the strategy. The teachers role is to present strategies that help children create relationships among basic math facts (Bielsker et al., 2001). As the gradual understanding of basic math concepts increases, students are able to begin to use strategies to increase the fluency of basic math facts (Fife, 2003). Once there is a conceptual understanding of basic math concepts, students are able to use

strategies to solve basic math facts (Fife, 2003). Some students will be able to begin applying strategies instantly, but many students will need reinforcement to become successful at using these strategies. By repeating these activities often for short periods of time, most children will become fluent in the use of strategies (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 38). It is important to only introduce one strategy at a time so that there is not too much new information to take on at one time (Fife, 2003). Once students are fluent in the use of strategies, they are more successful in basic facts (Bielsker et al., 2001). Students use counting strategies when they first learn math skills (Hudson et al., 2010). Students may use manipulatives, hands-on activities, cooperative learning, guided discovery, multi-sensory activities, and words and actions to increase understanding of basic facts (Hudson et al., 2010). Manipulatives and hands-on activities can serve as a technological ramp for students to move from the concrete to the abstract symbolism of the written mathematical notations (Ganesh & Middleton 2006, p. 134). As they become more successful and fluent, there is a shift from counting strategies to retrieval strategies. Retrieval strategies include internalizing and memorizing number combinations, or math facts, in order to retrieve them for use in more complicated or mental math problems (Fife, 2003, p. 9). According to Fife, the use of retrieval strategies results in fewer errors and an increase in fluency and speed (Fife, 2003). A variety of teaching techniques must be incorporated so that students with various learning needs and learning styles are introduced to strategies that can assist them to be successful. According to Bielsker et al., Using a variety of teaching techniques such as cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, doubles, and counting on helps to maintain student interest and master math facts (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 39). The

integration of music, movement, flexible grouping, and technology should be included in lessons and assessments (Fife, 2003). Strategies that use active learning actually help improve memory and enhance learning (Fife, 2003, p. 7). Studies have shown that students prefer active learning to traditional lecture classrooms (Fife, 2003). Movement through active learning has students engaged and excited to learn (Fife, 2003). Verbal and visual cues are often helpful (Fife, 2003). Research shows that there are many interventions that can be used to aid with the mastery of basic math facts. All interventions should have these three basic components to be successful: a) immediate feedback, b) accurate responding, and c) appropriate responding (Axtell et al., 2009). Immediate feedback is key so that students instantly can correct their mistakes so they do not practice inaccurate responses to a problem (Axtell et al., 2009). An appropriate response can be through writing, speaking, kinesthetics, or technology (Axtell et al., 2009). A study on working memory suggests that mental addition is a natural task that is innate to humans and combines processing and storing different components. These abilities go across cultural lines to extend to all races (Fife, 2003, p. 9). According to Fife, in order to do mental math, one must have mastered math basic facts. Mental math is important because it supports number sense in students which enables students to determine if an answer is reasonable or not when using a calculator or computer. When students are encouraged to create their own strategies for mental computation, they internalize the number combinations (Fife, 2003, p. 10). Teachers must hold their students to high expectations for math achievement (Bielsker et al., 2001). Learning will happen in an environment that encourages

collaboration, self-directed learning, and offers instant feedback (Galligan, Loch, McDonald, & Taylor, 2010). Teachers need to challenge their students by providing them with a stimulating and exciting curriculum so that the students will be motivated to succeed (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 39). Curriculum should include real world math skills and draw on support of professionals in the fields of mathematics, such as scientists, engineers, and business leaders. Teachers should rely on community members to help reinforce mathematics concepts (Bielsker et al., 2001, p. 39). By incorporating real world math problems into the classroom, students begin to make the connection between math and society. Students must be better prepared for the world outside of school. They need to leave school with a higher level of mathematical and scientific thinking, as well as a strong foundation of technology literacy more now than ever before (Blume, Garcia, & Mullinax, 2001). Todays work place puts demands on its employees that they have problem solving, communication, and reasoning skills (Blume et al., 2001).

Technology in Mathematics The importance of using technology to support mathematics learning in the classroom is now widely recognized (Bennison & Goos, 2010, p. 31). There is a growing push for technology to be used more often and more meaningfully in the classroom (Hudson et al., 2010). Technology might be the factor to help bridge the evergrowing gaps between society and school (Blume et al., 2001). Technology has changed the way students learn and the way they live (Aires, Baptista, Bessa, Bulas-Cruz, Cabral, Escola, Morais, Peres, Reis, Reis, Soares, & Valente, 2010). The transformation is

possible because of the access students have to computers, calculators, and the Internet (Bennison & Goos, 2010). According to Hudson et al., technology increases student motivation and creativity and can enhance learning by allowing students to have a handson approach (2010). Research shows that students improve their understanding of basic math skills by using technology (Hudson et al., 2010, p. ii). According to the United States Department of Education, the majority of students in the United States have access to a computer at school. As teachers strive to make students technologically literate, students need to use technology to practice, extend, and assess math skills and concepts (Bakia, Mitchell, & Yang, 2007). Technology exists so that students can explore complex and advanced mathematical topics and represent their thinking in varied forms (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006, p. 116). As technology increases and new forms are introduced into society, new ways of mathematical thinking are also brought along (Albayrak, Berigel, & Ipek, 2007). According to Aires, et al., technology is most effective as a supplement to face-toface teaching rather than a replacement (Aires et al., 2010). In a technology-rich environment, teachers are seen as the facilitators of knowledge. Teachers must decide what technology to integrate, whether it be a software program or digital media, how to integrate it meaningfully into curriculum, and design the task so the student makes progress in that particular skill or concept (Grundmeier & Habre, 2007). The teacher needs to facilitate and channel students activities so that they develop in a mathematically sound and sophisticated manner (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006, p. 125). A variety of teaching and learning practices can be applied when using technology that will enhance mathematical learning. Technology enables mathematical

information to be presented explicitly using a clear and concise model (Allsopp, Farmer, & McHatton, 2010). Math skills and concepts can be cognitively connected through the use of technology (Allsopp et al., 2010). By using technology, mathematics concepts can be connected to real-life problems, which spark student interest. Technology allows information to be developed, applied, and practiced visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically (Allsopp et al., 2010). Students who have a disability are able to use technology for basic math skills to allow them to engage in more complex math problems and concepts. Technology allows for students to receive instant feedback to prompts using a software program. Through the use of software, technology allows students to practice targeted concepts and skills repeatedly so that they become more proficient and fluent in those skills. Technology provides a means of communication for students to express themselves whether it be verbally, written, artistically, or through digital media (Allsopp et al., 2010). There are various forms of technology that can be used to reinforce basic math skills, such as software programs, interactive white boards, calculators, virtual manipulatives, mathematics simulations, webquests, calculators, spreadsheets, Internet websites, computer games, and digital media (Allsopp et al., 2010). Software programs and internet websites focus on a variety of math skills and concepts that are reinforced through games, puzzles or problem solving. Virtual manipulatives are an effective way to incorporate technology into the classroom because they are precise and significantly easier to use than physical manipulatives (Galligan et al., 2010). Teachers can use virtual manipulatives to introduce something to the entire class because they are large enough to be seen and manipulated in front of a classroom. Students can creatively express

themselves by creating digital media or digital media can be incorporated into the classroom to reinforce a concept or skill (Galligan et al., 2010). Teachers must determine the best technology that will enhance the learning and anticipated fluency of each new skill. The technology needs to be implemented in a meaningful way and used to its fullest, otherwise it will not be an effective tool (Allsopp et al., 2010). The teacher must be actively involved when incorporating technology into the mathematics classroom. It is not effective to have a student sit in front of a computer screen for hours. The student will lose focus and not allow the student to make progress (Aires et al., 2010). The teacher must be centrally involved, actively instructing, and mentoring students (Aires et al., 2010, p. 107). It is important to introduce students to a variety of interactive tools. Teachers need to present new mathematical concepts and reinforce old concepts using a diverse list of technological tools and in various settings to insure the greatest number of students are being engaged (Hudson et al., 2010). There are many benefits of integrating technology into the mathematics classroom. Interactive technologies are accessible to students at school as well as at home. Whatever skills students are focusing on in school, they are able to be reinforced again at home through various Internet-based software that districts can subscribe to or through Internet math games. These technologies allow students to practice skills through various multi-sensory activities using software (Allsopp et al., 2010). According to Allsopp et al., software offers an abundance of data to teachers through reports that can be analyzed to make instruction more effective (2010). Teachers, students, and parents are able to monitor progress through programs that individually track students. Students find these software programs motivating as they see

the progress they are making (Allsopp et al., 2010). The results of the students progress are instant for students and teachers, and this allows for immediate feedback. Previously parents and guardians needed to wait for communication from teachers to learn of their students progress. With technology today, parents and guardians can access a virtual site to monitor their childs progress. When analyzed, the data regarding the students progress shows strengths and areas of weakness that may need more practice or attention. This information is useful to both teachers and parents (Allsopp et al., 2010). Technology can differentiate the way that information or a problem is presented to a student. Some problems may be presented using audio rather than visually. There may be a single task or several tasks presented. Since math problem-solving in the real world is never presented a single way, it is important that students are exposed to a variety of ways (Allsopp et al., 2010). Research shows that traditional methods that teachers use in the mathematics classroom not only lack motivation and are ineffective, but they can impede the growth of students reasoning and problem-solving skills (Blume et al., 2001). According to Allsopp et al., technology enhances learning, creates authentic contexts, facilitates higher-order thinking by using the understanding of basic math skills, and offers instantaneous feedback (Allsopp et al., 2010). Previously, students would practice math skills and concepts by completing classwork exercises or homework using pencil and paper. They would then need to wait until the teacher was able to check the work and provide feedback. According to Aires et al., these interruptions would cause a lack of interest in learning and prevent students from making adequate progress (Aires et al., 2010).

The most frequently used technology in mathematics classrooms today is independently-used software that focuses on drill and practice of basic math facts and calculations (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006). Using technology to help develop fluency in math facts offers individualization and flexibility in instruction and practice. Math software that students use independently is unbiased, reinforces and drills, motivates, gives students a sense of privacy, and allows them to take risks without being judged by other students (Hamodey-Douglas et al., 1998). The research shows that when fourth graders use computers for mathematical games, the gain was a tenth of an academic year (Blume et al., 2001). According to Aires, et al., when teachers use an interactive approach that incorporates games and physical movement, learning becomes more effective (Aires et al., 2010). Educational software is known to increase learning outcomes by improving the speed of learning and mastery of skills. The use of technology effectively raises test scores and makes learning more meaningful because it is more relevant to the world outside of the classroom (Blume et al., 2001). Technology is able to help students with learning disabilities be more successful in school. Research shows that after using software that focuses on automaticity of addition and subtraction facts, students with learning disabilities are able to master math facts to the same level as students without learning disabilities (Hamodey-Douglas et al., 1998). Technology allows all students to progress academically in a multimedia learning environment, however students with special needs now have a more personalized learning environment with the resources and interactive tools to help them be more successful and competitive in the classroom (Aires et al., 2010).

English Language Learners (ELL) can also benefit from mathematics software in the classroom. These programs give ELL students an opportunity to learn and practice mathematical language that is present in word problems and directions. Without an understanding of these terms and phrases, ELL students will have difficulty making progress in mathematics as they grow older (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006). Students who are not confident in English may be able to try using English without anxiety or embarrassment because they are unable to be judged by peers (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006). For software programs that focus on drilling basic math facts, ELL students can feel successful because their lack of English will not affect their fluency in math facts. Students will receive instant feedback for self-monitoring. Virtual manitpulatives will help ELL students show and explain their thinking with little focus on a language barrier (Ganesh & Middleton, 2006). Research shows that the use of technology in mathematics has many benefits such as instant feedback, differentiated instruction and practice, and varying learning styles available for students to express themselves (Allsopp et al., 2010). The overall learning experience is changing for students who use technology in the mathematics classroom. The total time that the children were focused was higher, the total run time was lower, the help was lower, the joy was greater, the anxiety was lower, the apathy was lower, the attention was greater, the disinterest was lower, the withdrawal was lower, the difficulty in solving the exercises was lower, the ease in running the exercises was greater, the indifference was lower, the interest was greater, the persistence was greater, the sadness was lower and the will to continue on solving exercises was greater. (Aires et al., 2010, p. 113)

As technology continues to grow, there will be new ways to incorporate it into the mathematics classroom to make students more successful in mathematical basic facts, skills, concepts, and problem-solving skills (Hudson et al., 2010).

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