Welcome to the beginning of a book study of * Math Running Records in Action: A Framework for Assessing Basic Fact Fluency in Grades K-5* by Dr. Nicki Newton.

It’s easy to participate–simply read along and comment on posts by sharing what makes you think, what connections you make, what plans are put in motion, etc. I will also be posting some questions to think about as they relate to the reading each time I post, so you may feel free to respond to those as well. I am especially looking forward to hearing how each of us transacts with the text as we reflect on the reading, our teaching, and our philosophies. Dr. Nicki has also graciously agreed to do a Q & A in conjunction with the study, so make sure to keep a list of your burning questions as we progress.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, portions of the text will be summarized, yet other portions will be mentioned and will require the text for full understanding and benefit. Please feel free to share, even if you don’t have a copy of the text. Of course, I DO recommend you **snag yourself a copy**. Use Routledge discount code IRK95 to receive 20% off!

**Let’s get started!**

In the forward of Dr. Nicki Newton’s brand-new book, Alison Mello gets readers started off with a bang! Her discussion of the difference between memorizing facts and knowing facts from memory is essential understanding when it comes to helping students truly learn basic facts (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division). We all know it is possible to memorize something without having a deep understanding. Mello cites the example of children being able to memorize and recite the Pledge of Allegiance without understanding what it means. So the question becomes, how are students supposed to truly learn basic facts if they are immersed in a skill and drill environment of practice without meaning and the repeated administration of timed tests? For many the first step is knowing and accepting that they aren’t.

Furthermore, to best help our students progress in their knowledge of basic facts, we need to have better insight into what they know and understand beyond what can be gleaned from timed tests. Reading fluency probes came to mind for me–you know the one minute probes where students are asked to read and the administrator records the number of correct words read? This is supposed to tell us how fluent a reader is, yet it does not give us the valuable information about reading strategies used, self-corrections made, or the level of a reader’s understanding of what was read–all skills good readers possess. Many of us could then go on to argue that reading fluency is much more than the number of correct words read in a minute. Reading is about much more than speed and accuracy. Why should it be any different with basic math facts? I equate a basic fact timed test’s effectiveness to that of a one minute reading probe. There has to be a better way.

Dr. Nicki hits the nail right on the head! Knowing basic facts is much more than speed and accuracy. And, yes there is a better way. She has developed a framework for assessing students’ fluency that is research-based and multi-dimensional–the Math Basic Fluency Running Record. The dimensions of computational fluency include speed and accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency. If a teacher is strictly using timed tests, all dimensions are not being assessed. A Math Basic Fluency Running Record assesses each dimension, is used to inform instruction, and in turn helps students become successful.

In Section I: Chapters 1 and 2 give an excellent overview of Math Basic Fluency Running Records that sets the stage for the specifics of each type of running record (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division) outlined in the remaining sections of the text.

From Chapter 1: A Math Basic Fluency Running Record…

- is a three-part oral assessment taken in a systematic way
- assesses automaticity, strategy use, and efficiency
- counts student errors and self-corrections
- gives a deeper look at the thinking behind how students solve problems
- provides evidence of a student’s mathematical behaviors
- should be taken by all students at the beginning, middle, and end of the year
- should be taken by above level students every six to eight weeks; on-level once a month; below level every two to three weeks
- is used to target and improve student achievement

A breakdown of the **three-parts** of a Math Basic Fluency Running Record presented in Chapter 2 follows:

**Part I: Assessing for Automaticity**– Assesses a student’s instant recall and accuracy. The student is presented with 12 benchmark facts to assess addition/subtraction within 20 and multiplication/division within 100.**Part II: Flexibility and Efficiency**– Assesses the student’s strategy level (what strategies the student has/uses given specific problems). The student is asked “what he/she is doing” when adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing specific facts.**Part III: Mathematical Disposition**– Assesses a child’s thinking and feelings about him/herself as a mathematician. The student is also asked what facts are easy and tricky as well as what he/she does when stuck.

All of the above is true for each Basic Fluency Running Records whether addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

Next Thursday, in Section II, we will discuss the specifics of administering and interpreting the addition running record and the implications it has for teaching addition. I love how Dr. Nicki has not only developed a powerful assessment tool, but she has included some phenomenal guidance for teaching as well. Chapters 1 and 2 are just the tip of the iceberg!

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts and reflections of the text so far. You may also like to respond to one of the following questions for reflection:

- What adjective describes your thinking after reading? Explain why.
- How do you or your school define math fact fluency?
- Has any of the reading thus far been a call for action? Explain.

**Your time and participation are greatly appreciated!** Simply click in the “Leave a Reply” box at the end of this post to share. If you are used to blogger commenting, it will be new to you when you are asked to enter your email. Your email will not appear for readers to see. Once I read your comment, I will post it for everyone to see. This is a security measure to cut out any spam or advertisements.

I’ll see you back her next Thursday, July 14th! **You can also click here to view the book study schedule.**

All the best–

Patricia Rhodes says

My book is on order, so I am commenting without having read the first two chapters. After having taught middle school math for 24 years, and moving down to 3rd grade I would like to comment on the reading running records. I started giving them this year and thought that I was missing so much from my students. Just because they can read fast, doesn’t mean they really understand.

I’m very intrigued by the math running records. I have wanted for years to find some sort of good assessment on basic skills.

This is going to be an interesting read. Thanks for doing this.

Adventures in Guided Math says

So glad to have you participating! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. As a second grade teacher, I have used my own system of assessing each student’s knowledge of basic facts beyond timed test, but I was so thankful to learn about Dr. Nicki’s Math Basic Fluency Running Records for addition and subtraction that are so systematic and provide me with the benchmarked fact assessments, recording sheets (with codes), and interview questions. I especially appreciate how she provides a strong research base, and I love how the running records take into account a child’s thoughts and feelings about themselves as mathematicians. I hope what Dr, Nicki is offering is exactly what you are looking for! Thanks again!

Ann Elise record says

I definitely feel a call to action regarding basic math fact fluency being not just about speed and accuracy. By day, I am a Math Coach K-5 and at night I am an instructor of Math Education for pre-service elementary teachers. I have been so disheartened to ask my students to rate their enjoyment of math from 1-10 and have the vast majority give it a 1. Several students have asked if they could give it a negative number. I jokingly said that the fact they know negative numbers is a plus, but inside I cringed at the thought that future teachers who will be teaching Math disliked it so much and that many had developed a phobia about it. When I asked them what their memories were of Math growing up, almost all mentioned “Mad Minutes” or timed tests causing them anxiety and angst. This underlies the important work we have ahead of us to change this. I took Dr. Nicki’s webinar last summer on running records and have spent the last year implementing them K-5 and it has truly changed everything. Teachers’ discussions of their students are so specific now and they are empowered with the knowledge of exactly where to work with each child. Not only do we get invaluable information about each child, but in learning how to administer running records teachers and assistants know exactly what to look for in early numeracy development and the basics of strategic thought. The beauty of it is that the same strategies used for basic facts are then easily applied to larger numbers and even fractions and decimals down the road. So, so powerful!

Adventures in Guided Math says

It’s so sad to hear the number of to-be-teachers who have these feelings about math. Thank you for what you are doing to try to change that mindset. So important! Also, sharing your experiences using running records for the past year will be helpful to those considering using the framework with their students. Thanks so much for sharing!

COLIN cRIPPEN says

I finished the first two chapters today and I am excited to learn more about implementing Math Running Records into my classroom. I used timed tests last year and several of my students loved them. However, I had quite a few students who would groan when it was time for their timed test because of the anxiety and lack of progress. I think the interview part is such a creative idea because it allows teachers an opportunity to discuss learning with their students on a one-to-one basis. Justifying their thinking and explaining their reasoning corresponds with the Common Core expectations as well. I’m intrigued to read more in the following weeks.

Adventures in Guided Math says

We all know our students need to be challenged and experience constructive “struggle” and understand what it is to persevere, BUT those infamous timed test DO cause a lot of anxiety for many–not what we want. I think you make a good point about the fact that, not only did the tests cause anxiety for many of your kids, but they were accompanied by a lack of progress. Thanks for your honesty in sharing your experience. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with Dr. Nicki’s chapters related to the implications Math Basic Fluency Running Records have for our teaching. Thanks so much for participating, Colin!

Sheryl Peterson says

I am looking forward to discovering a better way to help my students with math facts. I teach 5th grade and there is such a range of abilities. At 5th grade, they are embarrassed that they do not know their facts. I am excited to learn about the power that running records have to diagnose the errors and the evidence-based strategies to support the students.

I am having difficulty finding the videos that correspond to the chapters on the website.

Adventures in Guided Math says

Thanks so much for commenting, Sheryl! As a former fifth grade teacher for many years, I know exactly what you mean. Your perspective will be important as we proceed in the book study. :0) As far as the videos, I think they are just audio/podcasts, but I will check on that. I noticed that some are not on the list as well. I will let you know what I find out.

LAURA says

Yes, I noticed that, too, as I’ve been reading. The book says to stop and watch a certain video, but then it turns out to be a podcast not a video, or I couldn’t find the corresponding video at all. The podcasts are good, but it’s much more helpful to watch the child as the running record is being administered.

I worry that it’s going to be hard to convince our curriculum director to abandon timed tests in our district. And we still have many teachers who believe that timed tests are the best way to truly assess a student’s knowledge of basic facts. I learned as I’ve been reading that there are many levels of sophistication in a student’s knowing his/her math facts. We need to help all of our teachers understand that, as well. Then they might begin to appreciate the value of math running records and all that they can tell us about our students.

Adventures in Guided Math says

I agree with you that the “road to understanding” is such an important one. I think the whole idea of memorizing vs. knowing from memory/remembering is one that many don’t fully grasp. That makes it hard to reason with those that support the timed test “programs”. I appreciate how Dr. Nicki cites so much research rationale for using Math Basic Fluency Running Records. There is also a lot of great information out there by Kling and Bay-Williams related to assessing and teaching basic fact knowledge. I have not heard back yet on the video question, but will let you know as soon as I hear. :0) Thanks so much for participating in this book study!

Liz Conlin says

I also am a 5th grade teacher and agree with Sheryl, there are a range of abilities and that often impacts their confidence in Math skills. I am looking forward to learning a way to help my students before they are sent off to middle school math. We have so much in reading to detect where there may be gaps, but for math, we have metrics to see how quickly they are able to compute but nothing to find out where the gaps, misconceptions or lack of generalization of the concepts they were taught when they were first learning their math facts.

My book should be arriving today 🙂

Adventures in Guided Math says

Well said and so true! Thanks so much for participating, Liz. Yipee, glad your book is arriving today–enjoy reading!

MiKe s. says

This is my second year teaching. I taught third grade last year and will begin a new journey teaching fourth grade in August. Teaching students how to be mathematically literate is why I chose to go into elementary education. I feel as though one of the most important aspects of becoming mathematically literate is to build fluency with basic facts. These basic facts can literally make or break a child’s math career. With my strong feelings pertaining to fluency with basic facts I made that my goal last year with multiplication and division facts. I dreaded the timed tests and knew there was a better way to test my students’ accuracy and fluency with their basic facts. I am so elated that Dr. Nicki came out with this book. I’m wrapping up Chapter 5 right now, but Chapters 1 and 2 has reassured me that this is what I’ve been looking for. If it works in reading, why can’t it work for math? I’m excited that I will be collaborating with you all for the next couple weeks, and I look forward to reading all of your responses.

Adventures in Guided Math says

Hi, Mike! So glad to have you participating! Your students are lucky to have someone with your mindset and wanting a better way. As the chapters unfold, I think you will be equally as pleased with the “implications for teaching” chapters. Dr. Nicki not only has created a powerful assessment tool, but after assessing she helps readers answer the question, “What do I do now?”. Thanks so much for sharing!

Liz Conlin says

After reading chapters 1 and 2, and have had time to process the information, this is what I have been looking for to help my students. If my 5th graders struggle with talking about what strategies they use to do basic facts, how am I supposed to expect them to discuss the strategies for more complex standards. This will also give me an idea on how they use the language of math and how I can adjust my instruction. I am going to be teaching an inclusion class this year and I think this will be very helpful!

Adventures in Guided Math says

So glad Math Running Records are what you are looking for! I agree with your insights, and I look forward to using Dr. Nicki’s Math Running Records this fall. It’s great to have you participating, Liz.