The first is direct teaching and practice of how to do everyday calculations like 27 plus 68, or 14587 times 7, or taking 37 percent of 460 etc. It sounds like students would hate this, but ify you them the tricks, they eat it up with a spoon. The absolute best book to teach them from is Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin. You could probably find it your local chain bookstore, or definitely on amazon (just click the title). Just buy it and learn the tricks. Then, For about 5 mins each class, alternate between teaching the tricks and giving them practice. For practice I usually project about 4 problems, have them do them in their heads, and write down the answers only. Some students will try and do it with pencil and paper don’t let them. At the end of every topic I give a little quiz to help keep them accountable for learning.
3 Step Mental Practice
The second way to do mental math is to create little challenges. I like to do 3 a three step format. It not only helps them learn the math but also improves memory by forcing them to remeber all the steps too. Start with somehing like what is the square root of 36, then whisper to your neighbor go into something like if this was the leg of right triangle and the other leg is 8 what is the hypotenuse (3-4-5 times too right?) show me on your fingers, then the third step might be what is this number to the 5th power? and I’ll take a quiet hand.
After the three steps debrief by having studnets tell you what each step was and what the answer to that step should have been. These can get pretty zaney and creative if you have an imgination. Click here to download a worksheeti like to use for this activity.
By incorporating mental math activities into your daily class routine you will improve you students ability to do calculations, their memory and add a lot of fun and enjoyment to your class! Give it a try!