I took the advice of fellow bloggers and followed up on concerns about my daughter’s emergent math anxiety (For the Love of Math).

After setting a date and time to meet via email, I followed up with this brief digital request: I would like to discuss this article when we meet.  It would be helpful if you read over it before hand.  http://mathsolutions.com/documents/9781935099031_message18.pdf  Thanks.

My daughter’s teacher, kindly responded to my email with: Sure, I’m always interested in professional reading.  We can learn and reflect on our teaching and learning.  Also would you read over the 2 articles that are below so that we could discuss them if necessary.  Thank you for your input.



She trumped my one article with two of her own!  But they gave me great points to use in advocating my perspective. Our conference lasted about thirty minutes, giving both of us clarity of the other’s expectations and philosophies.  Our goal was in sync, yet to some extent we agreed to disagree. The meeting concluded with an action plan:

GOAL: Scarlet will become fluent in multiplication and division to 100.

  1. My daughter will not be taking timed Holey Card tests for a grade in class anymore. (65% was unacceptable, considering the fact that when 6 minutes was up, she earned a grade out of 100 for only the multiplication problems she had correct…ones she hadn’t gotten to yet, counted against her.  It wasn’t fair because she wasn’t allowed to finish the test).
  2. She will practice the Holey Card at home, recording her start and stop times, with the goal of improving her time. (Tonight she did the entire 100 problem Holey Card.  It took her 14 minutes and she got 91/100 correct.  We narrowed down the facts she most needs to study and will work on speed with continued practice.)
  3. Instead of earning membership into one of the “Minute Clubs” (6, 5 or 3) in class, she will earn membership into “Facts Clubs” at home (also to be recorded on a sheet in her notebook that she can share with her teacher).
  4. Use mathcats fact family cards to practice working with fact families to multiply and divide (of all the cards I have looked at, I like these the best).

In the meantime, she will move ahead with the rest of the class, working with division, measurement, area & perimeter, and fractions because we agree that she has a good sense of numbers.

As I have been working on this issue, I have spoken with many colleagues, all of whom agree that memorization and conceptualization of math facts are two different things.  Yet, as much as we want  them to get the concept (which often involves visualization, drawings, and other strategies) they HAVE to develop automaticity, meaning they have to know it just as quick as can be so that limited fluency doesn’t inhibit comprehension of higher levels of math reasoning.

At my daughter’s school, students must have these facts memorized by the end of grade 3; if not then the second week of grade 4, they get their lunch tray and sit at a table outside of the cafeteria with a teacher assistant and recite their facts each day until they are memorized.  I wonder how many other schools have a system in place like this?  I know it is not uncommon in many other schools for 4th-9th graders to still struggle with their multiplication facts.  I interviewed a few 4th and 5th graders today to inquire of their multiplication memory.  Some knew it by heart; others admitted they still struggled.  Clearly this is an issue all educationists must deal with whether, parents, teachers, or leaders in the field of education.  What are some ways you or schools you’ve worked with ramped up their efforts to strengthen student math fluency and automaticity?

One thought on “Holey Cards: Math Fluency Requires Automaticity

  1. This is great — I am saving this for when my oldest child gets to this point. I’m sure there will be some ideas here I can use for all my kids. My oldest goes to a charter school where there is a great emphasis on math education; I love that about it.

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