A 2019 National Charter Schools Conference sponsor post.
Confession: I wasn’t always sold on Sprint routines for K–8 math classrooms. I worried that emphasizing rote memorization and completion speed reinforced misconceptions about being 'good' at mathematics. On joining the Eureka Math® team in 2018, I realized my job was supporting teachers in effective implementation of the entire curriculum, including Sprints.
So I listened and learned. Now I see the light. A well-managed Sprint helps students develop automaticity of previously studied skills as well as build key social-emotional competencies and joy in doing math.
What do I mean by well-managed? Teachers must honor the carefully timed, established routine. The problems quickly increase in complexity. Teachers motivate students to do their personal best, not complete every problem. Teachers allow time for students to assess their work, perhaps with a partner to practice mathematical language and process ideas. Students may receive additional time to use what they learned and fix mistakes. This helps students develop a growth mindset about learning math—it’s not about getting everything correct but about effort and learning from mistakes.
It’s also important to offer Sprints at the right time. Before students can focus on skills fluency, they need to explore, understand, explain, and visualize the concepts underlying those skills. Therefore, teachers should administer Sprints well after students have had time to fully grasp concepts and practice skills.
The emphasis on hard work, improvement, and celebration of success also helps students build confidence as they train their brains to focus on self-competition. When teachers continually send the message that true fluency involves a mixture of knowing some answers from memory, some answers from patterns, and some answers from the use of strategies and that every student will have different mixtures of these types of thinking, students’ self-confidence increases as they no longer compare themselves to others. The Sprint structure reinforces self-improvement rather than competition with peers.
Sprints help students set and work toward individual goals, develop a growth mindset, and productively manage the intense emotions that can come with timed work. These are skills that will serve students well in math class and beyond.
Joe Roicki is a program specialist on the Professional Development and Implementation Success team for Eureka Math, the PK–12 math curriculum from Great Minds®. He taught math to Grades 2–5 students and supported classroom teachers in Grades K–8 for 16 years.
Great Minds® was a sponsor of the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference.