Mental Math Directions
Have a couple of minutes at the end of your math period? Everyone packed up and ready to go, but you want to use the time to continue developing your students’ math abilities? The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has identified a student’s use of mental computation as an appropriate option to use when problem solving under their expectations for Grades 6 – 8. It’s often overlooked these days with the use of calculators and computers, but math fluency with basic facts is still an excellent indicator of a student’s future success in the field of mathematics. This collection of mental math problems makes practice easy to do. There’s no need for paper and pencil, or white board…. all answers can be displayed on the students’ fingers.
Here’s how to use the problems. Give the first part of the problem and allow 1 – 2 seconds for students to get the answer and place it in their short-term memory. (Commas indicate the pauses.) Students will use that answer and apply the next operation to that answer. After giving the next operation, allow 1 - 2 seconds for the students to get that answer. Continue until the end of the line. Have students either display their answer on their fingers as either all ones or using their one hand for the tens and the other hand for the ones.
Another way I've used the problems is to make a copy for each student with a blank for the answer. (I've include one of these worksheets at the end.) If you have a set amount of time, then impose a time limit and check answers at the end of the time allowed. But at least once a year, I like to test the adage 'Slow, but sure wins the race'. The students raise their hand as they finish and I call out the time for them to record. After everyone is done, we check the answers and make a chart of the time and number correct; sometimes we make a scattergram of the results. It's a good class activity right before a holiday or at the end of the year after the final exam is given.