What is Quicksmart?

Middle school students who have problems with learning face many difficulties at school. These students often need intensive support to bring them ‘up to speed’ with basic skills such as the recall of number facts.

QuickSmart Numeracy is an educational program designed to support numeracy skill development. The program was developed by a research team at the University of New England through the National Centre of Science, Information and Communication Technology, and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR National Centre).

QuickSmart Numeracy emphasises the role of automaticity in learning. Automaticity is the immediate recall of basic information. QuickSmart focuses on developing student’s understanding and quick recall of basic academic facts. The program is called QuickSmart because it encourages students to become quick in their response speed and smart in their strategy use when learning basic academic skills. Ultimately, QuickSmart aims to free up working memory so students can engage meaningfully in demanding school activities like problem solving and multiple computations. The QuickSmart Numeracy program focuses on basic mathematics content by providing instruction that meets individual student’s learning needs. The program provides students with opportunities to self-monitor and to receive and generate immediate, informative feedback.

The QuickSmart Numeracy program follows a structured lesson sequence based around a “focus set” of number facts. Teaching and learning strategies used include explicit strategy instruction, modelling, discussion, and guided and independent practice. The program incorporates the Cognitive Aptitude Assessment System (CAAS) computer software that provides information about each student’s accuracy and speed of recall of basic academic skills. Students aim to increase their accuracy and decrease response times as a means of demonstrating increasing automaticity. The program is intensive and requires students to work in pairs with an adult tutor up to three times a week for thirty minutes.

Observations and information gained from questioning students about their basic knowledge and strategy use are the basis of instructional decision making and individualisation of instruction in the QuickSmart program. Assessment information is also collected from many of the activities in the program such as flash cards, speed sheets and classroom related worksheets. Assessment and instruction form a continuous cycle in the QuickSmart program.

An appealing feature of the program is that much of the assessment information is made accessible and understandable to the participating QuickSmart students. Students are able to evaluate their own learning through recording or graphing information, such as how many flash card number facts they can calculate accurately in one minute. Students are encouraged to use this information to set realistic future goals. The extensive use of graphing provides students with a motivating visual representation of their progress.

The QuickSmart program also emphasises the usefulness and relevance of number facts to regular classroom activities. This feature of the program is important for developing transfer of learning to other settings. For example, the utility of basic academic understandings and skills can be presented to students by relating basic mathematics facts to money or common fractions, decimals and percentages. In addition, where possible, QuickSmart content is linked to current classroom content.

In summary, QuickSmart is a theory-based instructional intervention designed to improve student’s information retrieval times to levels that free up working memory capacity from an excessive focus on simple routine tasks. Becoming faster and more confident in recalling basic mathematics facts, for example, can mean that students have more time, energy and attention available for tackling more challenging mathematical problems.