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Get parents on board with mental computation strategies

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Get parents on board with mental computation strategies

Think Mentals 1/3/21

Over the years mathematicians and educators have become more aware of the need for students to have good mental computation strategies. While parents can provide valuable at-home learning support for your students, they may be relying on outdated methods – which could confuse students and undo the teaching taking place in your maths lessons.

It’s easy to see why this happens – after all, as adults we can do mental calculations very quickly because we’ve had years (and years) of practice. But just because a strategy is familiar for an adult, it doesn’t mean it is the best strategy for a student.

Chris Linthorne – parent, teacher and Think Mentals author – gave an example of the old versus the new in his classroom:

As I check students’ work, I often come across notes and scribblings in the margins where parents have been helping their child with the current strategy being taught in Think Mentals.

Recently, I saw 16 x 5 being retaught as 6 x 5 = 30 add 10 x 5 = 50 to make 80.

Fair enough, and you may well agree. It’s a strategy that does get the correct answer.

However, if the Ten and Halve strategy from Think Mentals was used, students would multiply 16 by the friendly number 10 instead of 5. Then, they would fix the change by halving the answer.

This means 16 x 5 becomes 16 x 10 = 160, halved to make 80. A strategy far simpler for students to apply.

By following modern, straightforward strategies, students can grasp mental calculation so much easier and really start to get their teeth into maths.

How do you get parents on board with new strategies?

At the start of the year, it’s important to give parents an overview of your mental computation program, so they understand how to support their child’s learning throughout the year.

If you’re using Think Mentals Digital Classroom, send home the Letter to Parents located in the Preparation and Planning section.

If you’re using the Student Workbooks, ask parents to read pages 2–3.

Each week, inform parents of the strategy their child will be focusing on and direct them to the relevant learning resources.

If you’re using Think Mentals Digital Classroom, encourage students and parents to watch the Strategy Video and read the Worked Example if students are struggling with their homework.

If you’re using the Student Workbooks, encourage parents to read the strategy explanation in the workbooks. Parents can also sign up to for free to help them mark their child’s work.

When parents have a good understanding of the strategies being used in the classroom, they can provide more meaningful assistance with their child’s homework.

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