Education is often misunderstood or over simplified. This is because formal education encompasses so many different types of knowledge and skills.
One type that gets some discussion is fluency. I’m thinking of two distinct areas which seem to me to have much in common. For instance, they are both vital, they are both achieved in elementary school, and they both require lots of practice.
I’m talking about phonics skills and math facts. In both areas, automaticity is necessary. If a student takes more than a second or so to read a word because they have to slowly sound it out, then the student will not have good comprehension because they took so much time thinking about the phonics. More specifically, the automaticity of great phonics skills avoids cognitive overhead which would result in successfully decoding the words but without successfully understanding the text.
Automaticity of the math facts is almost the same thing. Once the students start talking about equations, they need to be able to whip through the math fact calculations without creating any additional cognitive overload if they are going to build comprehension of the bigger math concepts.
Fortunately, in the last few years, a few online programs have appeared which are effectively gamified and architected. They are gamified so that students want to play on the program. The games are both the practice on the math facts and an overarching point and reward system. Bottom line, kids think of these new programs as games and want to play. They are architected in the sense that they make sure that the students build proficiency for the long term. They rely on concepts like spaced practice to make sure that it’s in their long term memory. They gradually release the students to harder math facts so that they are not overwhelmed but make steady progress.