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Four steps to make strategies sink in

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Four steps to make strategies sink in

Think Mentals 10/6/19


It’s the start of the week and you’ve got your next mental computation strategy at the ready to teach to your class of eager students. But what’s the best way to introduce and teach a new strategy?

A scaffolded approach that encourages students to explore and discuss their thought processes, followed by explicit teaching and plenty of practice is a recipe for success. See how this could unfold in your next mental maths lesson with our 4-step lesson guide:

1. Present the class with a problem

Don’t just dive straight into teaching – a valuable part of your lesson can take place before you even mention the new strategy you’re about to teach.

To begin, present your class with a problem that is best solved using the week’s strategy, such as 100 – 43 for Friendly Jumps (remember, don’t tell them what the strategy is yet!).

Ask students to work through the problem and to jot down any working to keep track of their thought process.

Next, ask a volunteer to explain to the class how they solved the problem. Then ask if anyone else used a different method and invite that student to explain how they solved the problem.

During this class exercise, students will see the variety of methods their peers used to solve the problem. This enables them to make observations on how similar, or perhaps more effective, different approaches can be.

Ideally, one student’s example will closely resemble the strategy you’re about to explicitly teach, which is a great segue into our next step.

2. Introduce the strategy

With their minds in gear, now’s the time to introduce the week’s strategy to your class. A video, like this one from Think Mentals Digital Classroom, is a great way to introduce the strategy.

3. Explicitly teach with worked examples

To consolidate students’ understanding, use a few different worked examples to explicitly teach the new strategy.

If you have Think Mentals Digital Classroom, you can use the scaffolded slideshow to step through worked examples. Or, if you have Think Mentals Student Workbooks, you can use the projectable Strategy snapshots (available from to demonstrate the worked examples.

4. Finish with practice

Provide students with a set of questions that are best solved using their newly learnt strategy – the set of Day 1 questions in each Think Mentals strategy unit does just that! Depending on the confidence level of your class, you may choose to work through several of these questions as a class, or send your students off to work through the set at their own pace.

After kickstarting the week with this strategy-focused mental maths lesson, your students will be ready to further practise the new strategy and previously learnt strategies in the rest of the week’s mental maths lessons. Using these four steps will really help make the strategies sink in.

Psst … Want to see how the resources in Think Mentals Digital Classroom can help you teach effective mental computation strategies? Sign up or log in to your Firefly Online account and add a 30-day free trial.

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