Think Mentals 1/3/18
Chances are each of us will use mental maths more times in our lives than we can count. But do your students know how important this skill is? Here are five tips to make the most of your mental maths lessons.
In an age where a calculator or phone is never out of arm’s reach, the value of mental computation might not seem obvious to your class of digital natives. However, studies indicate that we do more than 70% of day-to-day maths problems in our heads.1
Start the year by establishing the purpose of mental maths with your students. They can then dive into their lessons with the right mindset rather than continually wondering ‘What’s the point?’. Discuss when mental maths might be relevant in their lives, for example:
Jotting might seem counterintuitive to mental computation. However, jotting helps students who are still learning the ropes to keep track of their numbers. Encourage students to use this tool, but also clarify with them that it’s not the same as writing out the problem in full.
Read our article How jotting helps with mental computation for more information.
Explicitly teaching mental computation strategies will give students the tools to efficiently solve a variety of maths problems. While there are numerous strategies out there, the most effective will:
Additionally, it’s best to teach a set of strategies with consistent language and structure so they’re easier for students to memorise and recall. To see strategies like these, check out the Think Mentals series.
The next step with mental computation strategies is to give students targeted practice.
When students are first taught a strategy, provide carefully scaffolded questions that are best solved using that strategy so they can consolidate what they’ve just learnt.
After you’ve taught all the strategies for the year, provide a mixed bag of questions. Students can then practise recalling different strategies and picking the right one for the job.
Look for opportunities to use the computation strategies outside of your dedicated mental maths lessons. A good place to start is in a regular maths lesson where students can use mental computation to solve one of the steps in a larger problem. Students will get to see how working things out in their heads allows them to breeze through the smaller steps, which might normally bog them down, and manage the problem better as a whole.
When an opportunity to use mental computation arises, don’t forget to use the free projectable strategies at thinkmentalsanswers.com.au to refresh students’ memories.
By applying the strategies outside of your mental maths lessons, you’ll further reinforce the purpose and value of mental computation in everyday life.