Fluency in Maths

I am a huge fan of the NRICH website – a resource “rich” site for anyone interested in learning or teaching maths. I regularly read through their monthly newsletters and have used it to support my kids’ maths development as well as a source of interesting mathematical bits and pieces for my own entertainment.

I am also aware that my kids’ school uses it occasionally for ideas for “Home Learning” topics (they don’t set “Home Work”).  For this I am very pleased because the kind of activities suggested on NRICH are so much more creative and fulfilling than the mindless of traditional maths exercises.

I have often debated what the most important and useful skills one should learn in maths; and although I have come round to the idea that knowing your multiplication facts (an exercise in memory akin to learning to recite poetry) can be useful in lowering the amount of work your upper brain needs to do when solving number related problems, I am more convinced than ever that a solid understanding of how numbers can be manipulated and perceived along with solid analysis and problem solving.

With that in mind I was really pleased to see a recent article on their site called Developing Number Fluency.  The sentence that caught my attention was “The first thing to say is that fluency is not only about number”.  So often people equate maths with number and number only.  That is such a shame.  It is like saying that literacy is only about spelling or music is only about scales. Maths can be creative and beautiful and fun and we should all be shedding our preconceptions and prejudices and looking deeper into what joys can be found in understanding patterns both in number and other areas.