From the Vice President - Elementary

Hello ICTM members!

My name is Angie Shindelar and I have just begun serving on the ICTM Board as the Vice-President for Elementary. I attended UNI for both my BA in Elementary Education and my MA in Middle Grade Mathematics Teaching. This is my 29th year in education. I taught elementary and middle school math at Nodaway Valley CSD in southwest Iowa for many years. I am currently a Math Consultant for Green Hills AEA.

A topic that is often of interest to elementary teachers is basic fact fluency.  Basic fact fluency expectations for K-3 in the Iowa Core Math Standards set a high bar for students and teachers. Conversations about best practice for teaching fact strategies is always a high interest topic as teachers are eager for any suggestions to help students be more successful.

I would like to share what I have learned from an NCTM article in the Teaching Children Mathematics journal that has had a positive influence on my work. I also attended a session with the authors at a recent NCTM conference. The November 2014 NCTM article, “Enriching Addition and Subtraction Fact Mastery Through Games” by Jennifer Bay-Williams and Gina Kling provides powerful suggestions for achieving fact fluency. They have also written an article for multiplication and division facts. The highlights of the article are a progression for teaching fact strategies and an emphasis on games specifically designed around each fact strategy to build fluency. The games are designed to practice the thinking for a given strategy.

In my work with teachers to improve basic fact instruction one concern is consistently raised. Students are typically expected to learn all of the facts in the early part of the school year. For example, a typical textbook might have the chapter on addition and subtraction fact strategies within the first month of school. For many students this is too much content packed into a short amount of time. They struggle to grasp several strategies at once aren’t allowed time to absorb and practice.

An alternative option would be to spread the basic fact strategy instruction out across the year. Introduce and work on one strategy and practice the strategy with the fluency games. Redesigning the pace of the basic fact instruction can give students more time to make sense of each strategy and practice using it. Consistent practice with a strategy leads to automaticity.

Being fluent means we look at the numbers in the problem and quickly determine an efficient strategy to use. The strategy may vary depending on the numbers. The strategy becomes unnecessary when automaticity is reached, because we have practiced it enough to just know the fact. However the strategy is retrievable if the fact is forgotten.

I would love to hear any of your thoughts around basic fact fluency and any other topics of interest for elementary math. My email is


                                                                             — Angie Shindelar

                                                                             Vice President—Elementary