Is there scientific evidence (or at least personal experience) that shows that daily practice of math problems increases the speed at which those problems are solved?

Mind you I am not talking about being "better" at math as in being able to do harder problems. I am talking about being more efficient. As in being able to solve 555+666 in 20 seconds instead of 30 after doing a month of math addition problems each morning.

I wonder if there is such a thing as a "math muscle" that improves the speed at which one does math, because I am myself slow in math.

  • $\begingroup$ It can certainly be decreased through lack of practice. :) $\endgroup$ – Calum Gilhooley Aug 29 '18 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ I recall research that supermarket cashiers are -- or used to be, before the ubiquity of computers -- much better at arithmetic than mathematicians. But I can't find the research back now. $\endgroup$ – Mees de Vries Aug 29 '18 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ That's why we memorize multiplication tables $\endgroup$ – Vasya Aug 29 '18 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like you're talking about standard rote-based arithmetic, not mathematics. $\endgroup$ – zhw. Aug 29 '18 at 16:59

Well, if you practice anything, you get better at it, don't you?

I did a google search for “research arithmetic speed practice” and I found a Ed.D. thesis that studied a problem pretty close to what you're asking:

The relationship between timed drill practice and the increase of automaticity of basic multiplication facts for regular education sixth graders by Nelly P. Knowles (Walden University Ed.D. thesis, 2010). From the abstract:

This 8-week quasi-experimental quantitative study, based in cognitive development and theories of the construction of memory, used a 3-level independent variable experimental design to determine if there was a relationship between teachers’ implementation of timed drill practices and the students’ level of automaticity with regard to basic multiplication facts in 9 sixth-grade, regular education math classes. The control group received no intervention, the first treatment group received weekly timed drill practice for 3 minutes, and a second treatment group received daily timed drill practice for 3 minutes. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedures were used to measure the differences in pretest and posttest scores among the 3 treatment groups. Although no significant difference was found among the 3 groups’ pretest performance, a significant difference among posttest performance was found. Scheffe’ post hoc analysis revealed that the students who were administered daily timed practice drills performed statistically higher on the posttest than did the control group and first treatment group. Similarly, students in the weekly timed practice drill group had statistically significant higher gain scores than did students in the no treatment group.

The abstract doesn't mention it, but the concept of automaticity seems to measure what you're interested in: speed of recalling facts to perform arithmetic algorithms.


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