Second grade students are winning with math! How are they doing it? By developing number sense.
APV second graders love to show what they know using mental math. They race to quickly respond to a variety of math fact “drills”. They can barely sit still because they want to be the first to call out the correct answer. They race to write down the answer when in a challenge at the white board. In doing these activities, students of all levels benefit. Some are practicing, some are developing the ability to recognize and actively work with more complex relationships, and some are beginning to learn the most basic part of the relationship. They are extremely motivated to participate and eager to solve the next math fact. We talk about the different ways they got the same answer and about how the numbers are related. Students smile and jump up with excitement all in the name of math.
Practicing math facts and engaging in math talk has helped students tackle math problems that require multiple steps of cognitive processing. The ability to be flexible in math is related to the level of number sense one has. When problems are presented in unexpected and unique ways, flexibility is key. Computational fluency allows for efficient and flexible processing of the other steps in a problem. Research has indicated that when a child’s cognitive processing ability is not applied to computing basic algorithms, it is applied to processing and solving the more complex parts of the problem. The brain is literally “freed up” from one process and can be applied to another (Gurbuz & Erden, Journal of Cogent Education, 2016). It is these enjoyable learning experiences that secure the continued development of number sense and set the foundation for lifelong mathematicians.