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Monday, February 16, 2015

Great Teaching Books: Fluency Through Flexibility

I like to read.  Yes, I have spent the last 9 years teaching just math but I still love reading.  I may not like teaching reading as much as I like teaching math but to the shock of my students, I do know how to read.  They seriously look at me like I have 2 heads when I make a comment about helping them with a reading assignment.  I read whatever I can get my hands on.  To the shock of many of my colleagues, I read a lot of teaching books.  I read at least 1 teaching book per month and often will be in the middle of 2 or 3 at a time.  I love hearing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and how they are applying educational research to improve their teaching practices.  I have so enjoyed doing book studies on my blog (like Children's Math and Number Talks) and love how they get me to slow down and interact with other teachers about what I am reading.  However, there is just no way I can keep up with my own reading doing book studies, so I will also be sharing with you some of my favorite teaching books as I read them and a few of my past favorites. (Like A Focus on Fractions

Today, I want to share with you a book I read a few weeks ago.  I have been working on a blog post about fluency with addition and subtraction facts since October.  Now, usually I just write a blog post and hit publish, but this one has been bothering me.  I feel like talking about fluency can be a loaded conversation.  In my post, I am trying to convey the importance of fluency and kids thinking flexibility while not making it all about speed.  Yes, figuring out facts quickly is important but focusing on developing thinking strategies is so much more important than pushing speed so much that your students just become fast counters.  We need to move them beyond counting strategies.  I have been struggling with these words for months but this book has essentially said what I was trying to say in my blog post and really conveyed that being fluent requires number sense.  If you are a primary teacher or a teacher who has always wondered why some kids seem to develop addition and subtraction fact fluency while others can't seem to get there than this book is for you. 

This book really follows the idea of Cognitively Guided Instruction.  The activities in each section are based on children sharing and comparing ideas and strategies about how they got they answers.  Many of these activities are also easy to adapt to a Number Talk.  All of the activities are designed with best practices in mind and all blacklines are included.  Busy teachers will love having a set of blacklines that can be made once and used over and over again in a variety of games and activities. 
I think the most powerful part of this book is that it is such a good mix of theory and practice.  The beginning pages outline the why of teaching this way and the rest of the pages tell you how.  Unlike other books that are all theory with a few examples thrown in, this is a book that you can but in a busy teacher's hands and have them going with new and engaging activities in a matter of days.  I also think this would be an excellent book for special educators and para professionals that work with kids in math.  

As a math leader in my district, I am often asked to provide professional development in math teaching to other teachers and para educators.  This book would make an excellent resource to use in conjunction with this kind of professional development around early numeracy and additive reasoning.  It would be a great resource for everyone who works with K-2 teachers to have access to both for its theory and easy to implement classroom ideas.  

Want to grab a copy of this book?  You can head here to pick up your own.   You can also read more written by this author over on her blog, The Recovering Traditionalist.  


  1. Another great book to read. I'll add it to my list. That's a topic I'd love to know even more about.

  2. Very glad you posted this. I'm now following the author's blog too!

  3. Very good information & nice blog ! Thanks for sharing.

    Fast Math