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Fluency is a combination of accuracy and speed that characterizes competent behavior (Binder, 1996). Students with high scores in fluency can use more resources to achieve understanding (Therrien, 2004). A child with a lack of fluency or fluency problems use many of their cognitive resources (for example: attention, working memory, etc.) in decoding preventing him from devoting resources to understanding and learning more complex tasks (Dehaene, 1997).

In this paper, we present a three-year longitudinal study with a sample of 284 participants enrolled on different courses, from the first grade to the fifth grade of Primary Education, in the province of Cadiz. Participants were presented with a mental arithmetic fluency test (Canals et al., 1991) consisting of basic tasks tailored to the age of the participants. This included 64 single digit mental operations presented horizontally (4 +2 =?, 15-8 =?, 8x7 =?, 27:3 =?). Participants were given a maximum time of one minute for each activity, so that we could evaluate the fluency with which they completed the tasks.

Through the data collected, we observed the evolution of the developmental level of fluency in mental calculation, over the three years of the study. This allowed us to identify students who might have math learning difficulties, which currently affect between 3% and 8% of primary school children (Geary, 2004).