Mental math is the process of orally asking math questions and having the student compute the math in his or her head and orally answer the question. These are not questions that are drilled or memorized. Often you’ll find two part questions that can still be done mentally but are more challenging because now the whole question needs to be remembered while each portion of the question is worked out.
Questions are often two parts with the first part including a multiplication or division question followed by an addition or subtraction question. When questions include whole numbers and fractions the possibilities for questions is tremendous. Here are some examples:
2 x 5 + 9 = (19) 12 x 1/2 – 1 1/2 = (4 1/2) 12 ÷ 4 + 6 = (9) 7 x 7 + 18 = (67)
Perform these operations from left to right. The questions all follow the rules of Order of Operations (PEMDAS- parentheses, exponent, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction), with multiplication and division questions coming before addition and subtraction questions.
Mental math is ideal when it is included in your opening activities, but you may choose to do mental math whenever it fits your daily schedule. While it’s best to do mental math everyday, you may double up on mental math lessons when necessary. Or, you can do mental math 2 or 3 days a week. I find that mental math is best before a lesson and that it is math the student is already familiar with; it should not be new learning. In general, mental math is best when the student is fresh and isn’t already academically fatigued. For most children this is in the morning, but you may find your child performs best at another time of day.
These worksheets contain five questions each day of the school week (Monday through Friday, or in the case of the worksheets marked Day 1 to Day 5 to accommodate international school weeks). That’s a total of 35 questions a week. That’s over 1000 questions a year, most of which are two part questions so that’s like doing nearly 2000 questions a year! That’s sufficient, but when I was doing these questions with my children, I often did 6-10 questions a day when my children were about grade 5 to grade 9, and about 2-5 questions when my children were grades 1-4. I would repeat the same questions year after year adding more challenging ones the first time my children went through these questions. By the time I had created all my mental math questions I had over 4000 questions spanning 3 years. I simply recycled the questions year to year.
I’ve simplified and standardized the structure of these worksheets by having just five problems daily. But as there are two (36-week) years available, I suggest doubling up on questions if you feel five questions isn’t enough. If you do this, you can repeat the questions yearly. At first some questions may be too challenging, but later those same questions will become too easy! In fact, I’ve included very simple questions and repeat questions throughout on purpose. The balance between challenging and easy questions offers some ‘wins’ for the student and diminishes math fatigue.