Transform Teaching Mental Maths from ‘Drill and Kill’ into Fact Fluency Fun for your kids with our Top 5 Mental Maths Tips! Turning Math Fear into FUNtastic Fluency!
Not everyone knows their ‘times tables’, including Stanford Math Professor Jo Boaler, and it’s time to stop the shaming and stigma that goes with this.
Having automatic recall or knowing your ‘tables’ does not determine your mathematically ability. But unfortunately many people wrongly think that how fast you can recall a ‘times tables’ fact is linked to how smart you are.
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It’s time to put this right and make sure that no one is ridiculed or made to feel inferior because they don’t know their ‘times tables!’ It’s time to take the emphasis off speed, rote and memorization and give more attention to strategies.
The best way to do this is to create strategy focussed mental maths programs to teach kids a range of mental math strategies. Teaching Mental Maths strategies is the best way of teaching kids basic math facts. So teaching a range of strategies will help kids that can’t remember or don’t know their number facts.
Being fluent and having automatic recall is a nice thing to have! But this ‘nice to have’ is not an indicator of mathematical ability.
Fluency Not Drill and Kill
The purpose of Mental Math teaching programs is not speed, and there is no evidence that links speed to higher achievement levels. Instead programs should help students to:
- Develop a wide range of mental strategies to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication & division math problems
- Know which strategy to select to solve a problem, effeciently
- Have a good number sense understanding to judge the reasonableness of their answers
- Build flexibility, fluency and automaticity to solve problems mentally
How To Teach Mental Maths
Teachers who rely on timed tests or ‘shoot-out’ activities are planning programs that are focussed on recall and memorization of facts. Research proves that these types of programs are causing more harm than good to students; sadly they are also responsible for students suffering from math anxiety!
Drill focussed Mental Math programs will NOT teach kids the strategies to solve math problems mentally. Instead, these programs send out the message that being the fastest means you’re smartest! Kids who can’t perform in pressure situations are left thinking that they are not good at math and disengage from the subject altogether.
To stop this rot Mental Maths teaching programs need engaging, open-ended activities. That way kids can explore, share, compare and talk about the mental strategies they use.
When you take the time to teach students a variety of mental math strategies, you are equipping them with the skills and confidence to solve more complex math problems in the future.
Strategy focussed mental math teaching programs will help your students become successful at math. They will also make math sessions enjoyable, exciting and fun for all your learners!
Continue reading our researched based, TOP 5 Mental Maths Tips and use them when planning and teaching numeracy. There’s also a link to an amazing Freebie at the end of the post!
Top 5 Mental Maths Tips
Use these 5 tips to plan effective mental math programs to get results for your kids!
Mental Maths is ‘the process of doing calculations in your head’, which is something that everyone does everyday! Programs need to show students that mental maths is not just for math class and that it is something people do at work, the shops and in the home including:
- using money- checking change, budgeting, estimating how much a purchase will cost
- cooking – measuring ingredients, estimating if quantities will fit, calculating the timing of a recipe
- planning a holiday
- checking the time,
- watching the weather forecast and using a TV remote
the list goes on… Did you know 75% of everyday calculations is done mentally, without a calculator or a pencil and paper?
#2 – Confident, Positive & Empowered Learners
Teaching Programs that are focussed on speed will make students ‘HATE’ math!
Many students feel huge amounts of stress and anxiety if math sessions are fixated on drills, speed and recall. The stress of math may cause kids to become disruptive and also lead to disengagement from learning math.
Teaching programs that are strategy focussed will empower students, build confidence and make kids feel positive about solving calculations in their head. For this to happen programs need to include the explicit teaching of mental math strategies, followed by opportunities for students to try, explore and discuss each strategy. Both the ‘I do, We do, You Do’ teaching strategy & (math) Number talks are perfect structures for effective math lessons.
Click the image to get a free set of math talk posters!
#3 – Teach, Describe & Share
Most students heavily rely on using their favourite strategy to solve every math problem, typically the counting on strategy! So programs need to include explicit teaching of a range of mental math strategies.
Initially this is not an issue. But as math problems become more complex students loose track of their ‘counting on’. Which results in them being unable to reach a solution. So to prevent this it is important to create teaching programs that show students a variety of mental strategies.
During this students need the opportunity to describe and discuss their own versions of the solution. Class discussion is very important for sharing mental methods among all students.
Consolidation & practise of strategies using quality games and activities help build fluency & automatic recall. Teaching strategies should centre around hands on exploration, discussion, explanation and practise. Be wary of showing students rules to remember & learn by rote (e.g. adding zeros) as they are generally forgotten & misused!
#4 Place Value, Partitioning, & Relationships
- Mental strategies are underpinned by Number Sense & Knowledge which directly influences the range of strategies accessible to students. Limited Number Sense & Knowledge results in fewer mental maths strategies & the over reliance on the same strategies for solving computation, e.g. using Counting On to solve everything! The range of key knowledge required is broader than the basic facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. For a solid understanding & application of Mental Maths strategies students need to:
Know that Mental Strategies require use & knowledge of:
- Basic Number Facts
- Counting Sequences
- Place Value Structure
- The meanings of words and symbols
Know how to use Mental Processes to manipulate numbers for easier computation, including:
- Rounding and Compensating
- Splitting Numbers using Place Value, Partitioning and Rearranging the Parts
- Recording Operations on number lines
- Know about relationships between the operations
#5 Teaching Mental Maths Strategies – Foundation to Year 6
Mental calculations should be automatic, fast & accurate. But to get to this stage involves countless opportunities to experiment, explore & manipulate multi-step processes.
Mental maths is a multi-step, in the head, process, involving many fragments, bits & parts of information to hold, remember & come back to. Mental strategies help us to carry out these calculations in our head, and the best mental maths program involves explicit teaching, thinking about thinking (metacognition) & discussion of the best strategy for the job.
Without this mental maths programs become a memory exercise & and just another procedure to remember.Read more on the research on youcubed.org
We have created an awesome FREE Resource for you to help with teaching mental math strategies. Click the image to get it for FREE!
The A Plus Teacher has been a Primary School Numeracy Curriculum Leader and Coach for 16 years and now advisors A Plus Teaching Resources about Teaching Numeracy
The A+ Team is Passionate About helping educators to save time so that they can concentrate on the most important job in the world… Teaching! The Team Creates Time Saving, Tried & Tested, Hands-on, Teaching Resources, Ideas, Organisers, Checklists, Printables, Posters, & Games!