Are your students struggling with their mathematical fluency? Are you looking for a highly engaging way to get your students to work on their mathematical fluency? Look no further than nerdlegame.com, a free platform where students can complete a Nerdle game and work on their mathematical fluency simultaneously. If you’re familiar with Wordle, you may notice that Nerdle is the math equivalent where instead of guessing the mystery 5-letter word, you are trying to guess the mystery 8-character math sentence.
Graham Fletcher defines mathematical fluency as a “students need to be accurate, efficient, and flexible in context”; “it is an outcome of meaningful problem-solving with purposeful practice.” Not only does mathematical fluency include a student's ability to be accurate and efficient, but it is also a measure of how flexible you are in your thinking. Many people think that mathematical fluency is simply about speed and accuracy with rote memorized facts, when it’s more important and powerful for students to know how to use these facts in context.
Take the following example from Linda Gojak, former NCTM President. At the beginning of the school year, I gave a class of third-grade students a sheet with 10 addition facts. Under each fact was the word “explain,” followed by a line. I asked one of the students the sum of the first fact, 8 + 9, and she immediately began to count on her fingers—certainly not the action of a student who is fluent with addition facts. Before she reached the sum I asked her, “What do you know that would help you find the sum of 8 and 9?” She thought for a brief time and replied, “Oh, it’s 17.” When I asked her how she had gotten that without counting, she looked at me and said, “I just took 1 off the 8 and gave it to the 9. That made it 7 + 10. That’s easy—it’s 17.”
One might argue that child was not fluent. I believe, however, that she demonstrated fluency and more. She was able to use her understanding of place value, addition, and the associative property to arrive at a correct response. She was efficient, accurate, and flexible in her thinking—all in a matter of seconds. What made the difference between her fumbling first attempt and her successful second one? It was being provided with the chance to stop and think about what she already knew and apply that understanding to 8 + 9.
This child wasn’t quick with blurting out the correct response but according to Linda Gojak, should still be considered mathematically fluent because “she was efficient, accurate, and flexible in her thinking.” This is the essence of the Nerdle game phenomenon. Students need to come up with the mystery math equation of the day utilizing any of the digits 0-9, =, and the four arithmetic operators +, -, *, and /.
How exactly can Nerdle game help students develop their mathematical fluency? Nerdle promotes mathematical fluency since it requires mathematically correct number sentences to be used. If what is entered is not mathematically correct, you will be required to fix it before submitting. As said before, any of the four arithmetic operators can be included in a Nerdle which requires students to be familiar with each, and it forces users to think flexibly about numbers to eventually determine what the mystery equation is. Another key benefit of using Nerdle with students is that it can be done individually or as a group, as a Do Now, Exit Ticket, or other quick formative assessment, depending on how you want to utilize the site in your classroom. It can also be useful for students from elementary age through high school.
Now, how do you actually play Nerdle? The ultimate objective is to guess the Nerdle in 6 tries or less. After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess was to the solution. In addition, here are the rest of the rule's users must abide by for the Classic Nerdle game.
From the initial Classic Nerdle game, there are now five game modes for users to try. These game modes are explained further below.
Classic Nerdle – The original Nerdle game. The aim of the game is to guess the Nerdle in six tries, by guessing the “word” that fills the eight tiles. After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess is to the right answer. A black tile signifies a number or operator that is not in the puzzle at all. A pink tile signifies a correct number or operator that is in an incorrect location. A green tile signifies a number or operator that is correct and in the correct location.
Mini Nerdle – The aim of the Mini Nerdle game is identical to that of Classic Nerdle only instead of eight tiles to guess, there are only six. A Mini Nerdle game could be beneficial for students who are not quite ready for the full Classic Nerdle game. As students build up their fluency skills, they could then begin to use the Classic Nerdle game.
Pro Nerdle – Is an amazing new gaming option that allows users to create their own Nerdle game to share with others. Additional operators including parentheses, exponents, decimals, and factorials are available and the user has full control over how many of the operators are enabled in their game. While Classic Nerdle is an eight-character puzzle with six guesses, Pro Nerdle can be up to sixteen characters with up to ten guesses. Once a Pro Nerdle is created, a share link is provided that can be sent to your students.
Speed Nerdle – This game mode has rules that are the same as the Classic Nerdle rules except you play against the clock and the first guess has been taken for you. But be careful, some rows have time penalties. 3,2,1….go!
Instant Nerdle – This game mode has rules that are the same as the Speed Nerdle rules except there are no time penalties. In addition, the first guess made includes all the operators and digits needed to complete the math sentence, but in the wrong order.
Each of the five game modes can be used to successfully help students increase their mathematical fluency in a fun and engaging manner. The Pro Nerdle game is an especially dynamite option that gives educators more control over the specific fluency skills they want their students to be practicing in the classroom.
If your students are struggling with their mathematical fluency skills, it may be time to try something new such as Nerdle. If you do use Nerdle, I would love to hear how it went! Give me a shout on Twitter @JTheRunningShu or email me at Justin_Shumaker@caboces.org to share or learn more about how Nerdle can be used effectively in the classroom.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
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