Putting the Intelligence in Math Fluency

The Science Behind the Success

Fluintcy didn't happen overnight.  In fact it took over 30 years of research!  Through assimilating hundreds of research papers on how to motivate the human mind to learn, we combined a number of principles together into a process that drives students to consistently output volumes of work that achieve fluency.

In tandem with the scientific inquiry, we have been testing the methodology and software application in the classroom for over a decade, carefully tweaking the variables to form a perfect balance.  The result is fluintcy, a cloud-based software and instructional system that produces astounding results with lasting outcomes. 

Below is a shallow dive into the mechanics behind the magic of fluintcy.  In addition, we explore the incredible research and results from the pilot programs.  


"Having worked with multiple math programs, the ones that I see my students making the greatest gains with are those that focus on math fluency. Practice makes permanent, not perfect."

Steven Strnad, ACCELERATED Learning Center Phoenix AZ



First Results Spring 2017 Pilot 1 Feb-APR

22 Students At-Risk - Highest Crime & Poverty Area in Phoenix


From fingers  to fluency.  John created an environment with positive interdependence between students and their peers, using a fun, fast-paced game where success comes from both individual goals, and the gains of the entire group.


Reversing Attrition

In a typical academic year, a school found in the highest crime and poverty location would be falling further behind grade level standards (eg. shown  above).  We were able to stop that attrition and have every student show academic gain, as much as 4 years (100 points).  This allows us to project that when a student experiences success in mathematics, they will close the ethnic achievement gap and reverse it by 10th grade.  This will allow them to compete equally with children who come from affluent environments.

Psychometric & Pinpoint Learning

Psychometric analysis shows how students over time showed intense gain as they saw their efforts yield success.  We reach a peak at day 15, where they encounter more difficult levels of arithmetic and level off with continued steady gain through the 43 day pilot. 

For every new task we encounter, the brain devotes a large amount of blood glucose to that problem.  With practice, fluency occurs and the brain uses a minimal amount of "power" to answer the problem.

Using the analogy of a rocket ship vs a glider, a rocket uses a lot of fuel to achieve liftoff and needs a sustained level of fuel to stay aloft while a glider can sail for hundreds of miles using the power of the wind to stay aloft.  This minimal effort approach is what Fluintcy is all about, developing fluency in mathematics where simple math problems take minimal effort, leaving the majority of brain fuel for more complex mathematical applications.


Success Zone = Confidence

The comprehensive research of Terry Scott shows that if students fall below the ratio of 4 successes to 1 failure, they are in the “fail zone” where confidence is diminished and burnout sets in.  We programmed the software to adapt to each student's level, keeping them in the sweet spot of success, in most cases reaching a “Goldilocks zone” of 9 to 1!  This builds morale and generates the volumes of practice for automaticity.


Back & Forward Pressure = The Sweet Spot

Fluency is speed and accuracy.  During each game, students are working on up to 4 different problem types.  50%  are from the core level, the standard that they are trying to master.  Forward pressure introduces up to 20% of the questions from the next level, and back pressure uses 30% of the questions from previous levels to keep them humming along in the success zone, while remaining challenged and engaged.


Leveling Up = 750 Levels to Climb

Each level is directly correlated to the common core standards.  Building on the skills learned in previous exercises, students climb the ladder of academic gains.  Ranging from basic arithmetic to algebra, the standards reinforce all variables of algebraic equations to build a foundation of mental flexibility and hand-to-eye coordination.  In total there are over 750 levels, with over 600,000 math problems to master!


Positive Interdependence = Team Score

A team score creates positive interdependence between students.  Instead of working solely for their own gain, they are part of a tribe.  This culture boasts a number of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, which manifest into a remarkable team dynamic that includes rewards applied both inside the system, and externally in the classroom.



Accountability = Leaderboard

Leaderboards in education are often taboo, but when done right they can be a powerful motivator.  Each student is not only accountable for themselves, but for the entire class.  The leaderboard shows both rank and progress, and goals are adjusted based on student ability and past performance.  Students who weren't previously engaged in math quickly become hyper-attuned to climbing the ranks, or being first to hit their goal.  Students at the top will fight to keep their place while plowing through the standards, while those at the bottom will gain point multipliers for progress, allowing them to keep pace and rocket up the board after a solid set of games.


DNA: The Hunt = Chemical vs Physical 

Looking back to our hunter gatherer ancestors, teamwork is key to survival.  Working alone we starve or die, but by hunting as a pack we take down the game and thrive.  This teamwork is ingrained in the DNA of Fluintcy.  Most learning is achieved as a chemical process in the brain, which can dissipate after a few short weeks.  By combining the team score and leaderboard dynamics, we are recreating the hunt.   This stimulates a powerful signal to the brain to learn this skill as permanent memory, building new axons and dendrites.


Practice = Permanence: The Brain Glucose Pinpoint

Studies show that when a student takes on a new task, the blood glucose consumption in their brain spikes to roughly the size of a quarter.  With repeated practice, it goes down to a pinpoint and then becomes permanent.  This factor is the essence of fluency and automacity, freeing up the cognitive load to tackle more difficult tasks, and building a strong foundation for confidence in all forms of learning.


Each of these principles alone do not create the motivation and engagement to answer hundreds of math problems correctly each day, as witnessed by the sub-par results of most programs and the slipping numbers of the U.S. education statistics for mathematics.  However, Fluintcy is much greater than the sum of its parts.  When combined just right, these factors brew a powerful tonic… one rarely witnessed in the modern classroom, especially with at-risk youth.




A Bunch of Kids Doing Math

Deroni during Pilot 1.  After 40 days.  He shows incredible speed and accuracy.  We have unlocked a new potential for this child.

Deroni at Pilot 2 showing more promise as he encounters higher level item banks.

Deroni is the first kid to reach the word problem bank.  Though his literacy skills are low, through the gradual leveling process it prepared him for this new level on his very first day.  He's even faster since then.

Derrick normally stoic in class smiles as he performs math problems.

July 12, 2018 Nai and John presented at HSTW (High Schools That Work) the results from the second phase of testing with 25 schools ranging from K through 12. 

Math Classroom].jpg

Seeing is Believing!