Computational Fluency in Action–Mia’s Story

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

This year on our campus, we implemented Number Talks in every K-5 classroom to help develop our students’ computational fluency.  It was a huge undertaking, but both teachers and students embraced it with enthusiasm.  As the year comes to a close, we administer a computational assessment called the Portrait of a Maverick Mathematician, lovingly referred to as the Portrait, to ensure we’re sending our kiddos on to the next grade level having mastered the computational skills of the current grade level.

Tonight I want to celebrate the work of Mia, a phenomenal 3rd grade mathematician.  She embodies the type of mathematicians we all hope to produce in our classrooms.  Earlier this year, I featured Mia in a video I “produced” for a staff development session for her work helping a fellow classrmate understand the subtleties of model drawing.  But tonight it’s her computational fluency I want to brag on.

It was a cloudy Tuesday in Katy, TX, and I was flipping through the pile of 3rd grade Portraits.  I have to admit I was pretty impressed.  In the instructions for the Portrait, students were told to use their most efficient strategy to solve each computational problem and reminded they could check their work using a second strategy.  And check they did!  Student after student checked subtraction by adding, or they checked their addition with a number line or splitting. Most students checked their multiplication problem either by repeated addition or by drawing a pictorial representation.  Mia’s work, however, caught my eye.

Her strategy of breaking apart one of the factors was brilliant!  One day, down the road, some junior high teacher will be teaching the distributive property and Mia will have a huge ah ha moment, because she was doing it in 3rd grade. I don’t know about you, but this is going to be my go-to strategy to recommend to students for checking multiplication from now on.  If you like it, give Mia some love in the comments!

Check out this blog post for more information about the Portrait, including downloadable forms!

18 Comments

  1. Rochelle

    Way to go Mia! I plan on implementing Number Talks next year with fifth graders. This particular group of students really struggle with checking their work and determining if their answer is reasonable. Looks like Number Talks have worked well for your kiddos! Any advice you can offer about implementing them would be much appreciated!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      That gives me an idea for a blog post, Rochelle! Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    This is fabulous work, way to go Mia!! Number Talks are such a beautiful picture into the student math brain and their way of thinking. Glad to hear that your teachers took control and implemented in their math instruction. Was it a push to do everyday or only so many times a week? Thanks for sharing!! _grace

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      We had a goal of 3 days a week. I’m working on a post for later in the week with specifics!

      Reply
  3. TheElementary MathManiac

    My third graders’ favorite way to multiply a number by 5 lately as been to multiply it by ten and split the answer in half. We have worked a lot on finding half of a number and multiplying by ten. I love Mia’s understanding of the distributive property. I feel that third graders having this level of understanding is vital in their ability to think about math and not just do it.

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      That’s a great strategy, Tara! I agree with you that Mia is on the fast track for success as a mathematician. I’ve got two years to convince her she needs to be a teacher before she leaves elementary school. 🙂

      Reply
  4. MissPetzold

    I have been implementing Number Talks in my first/second grade multi-age classroom. I can’t wait to teach some of those multiplication strategies/ways to check with my advanced second graders, what great strategies, love it! It really shows that Mia understands why the standard multiplication algorithm works — and that is so important!!

    Reply
    • MissPetzold

      Also meant to say I can’t say enough great things about Number Talks — neither can the parents! So many of the parents of my students have commented on the major increase in the ability to mentally do computations!

      Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I just can’t say enough good things about Number Talks. I think they have been transformative for our kiddos! They make math seem like a wonderful puzzle to the students, and they have really ignited a passion for learning.

      Reply
  5. Jeremy Moreno

    So proud of you Mia and most importantly you should be proud of yourself.

    Your teacher,

    Mr. Moreno

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks for chiming in, Mr. Moreno! Hats off to you, too! You’ve created an environment in your classroom that supports young mathematicians in their growth and creates a passion for learning. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Chhaya

    What an absolutely brilliant way to verify an answer ! Loved it !! Way to go, Mia !

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Robin

    Donna this is incredible! I’d love to know more about your “portraits” at each grade level. Would you be willing to share what you do?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      You weren’t the only one to ask, Robin. Just added this post last night with details.

      Reply
  8. Frances

    I love Number Talks! I’m agreeing with Robin – I’d love to hear more about the Portrait of a Maverick Mathematician. Is this something that you create? Please elaborate! Thanks…

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Hey, Frances! See the link in my reply to Robin (above) for the link to a blog post with the details. 🙂

      Reply
  9. stephf54

    Being so math challenged myself, Mia reminds me of a student I have this year who is just brilliant in math! This is his first year “fluently” speaking English from Chinese and he amazes me with his math vision! Today this 2nd grader excitedly shared that 5/2 and 2 1/2 were equivalent fractions, a term we just heard briefly mentioned in a video and clearly explained why, including why 5/2 was an improper fraction! The rest of the class stared blankly at him while I stared with sheer joy. Sadly he is going to a different school next year and I wont be able to watch his growth into genius

    Reply

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