In this series of articles, we’ve been exploring the idea that a Bottom-Up Approach to teaching math can do more for lasting skill mastery than the more traditional Top-Down one.  The system that will take the best advantage of this approach will have strategies related to What, How and When to Practice. In this last article, we explore HOW to practice. 

Ok, so now we’ve talked about why, when and what to practice.  Those elements comprise a lot of the How piece.  We know that repetition is important, and it has to be of a certain TYPE (the repeated-exposure-over-time type, not the mind-numbing-rote-type). We know to strategically time your practices using spaced repetition.  And we know to limit your work in progress, and not try to learn too much at once.  So now, HOW?

How do I practice?  Remember that what we’re going for here is fluency.  We’re not teaching the novel just yet- we’re learning the language inside and out so that you can read and study the novel yourself.  So the answers to how are:

  1.       Short and sweet
  2.       Lots of breadth in a given session, lots of depth over multiple sessions (allowing you to take advantage of the crucial passage of time piece)
  3.       In whatever way keeps you in your Zone of Proximal Development (your ZPD, your sweet spot!)
  4.       In whatever way keeps you coming back for more.
  5.       In a way that has you being quizzed and tested on a regular basis (engages the brain, helps you know what to take out of rotation and what to keep in)
  6.       Less explaining more doing! (I know this is controversial, and as teachers, we will WANT SO BADLY to explain. Resist.  Resist. Resist.  Here’s why).

The details of this list will change per student.  Which is why customized 1:1 coaching with someone skilled in practice-to-mastery is such an amazing way to achieve math fluency.  That’s what we do at Math For Keeps.  There is a wealth of information here in our blog, and if you want to learn even more, come get a free assessment.