Mental Math for Kids: Fun Ways to Improve Your Child’s Skills
Mental math is the process of doing calculations in one’s head rather than on paper or by using a calculator. It can improve a child’s math fluency, allowing them to study more easily in higher level mathematics. Developing the skill of mental math through simple, but fun, math activities is a fantastic way to not only stimulate your child’s mental math abilities, but another way of improving their knowledge of the number facts.
Here are a few of our favorite activities that are fun and support mental math skills:
Organize a deck of cards by face value – a pile for 2s, a pile for 3s, and so on. Assign the picture cards a value of 10, and the aces a value of 1. Each player will turn two cards face up, read the numbers and multiply them together, and say the answer. For children just learning their multiplication tables, start with the 2 pile, and have them practice in order – 2x2, 2×3, 2×4 and so on. After they have mastered the 2s, move on to 3s. By building their memorization of the multiplication tables in order, your child will master their multiplication facts in no time!
After your child knows their tables for 1 through 9, you can shuffle the cards and have them draw at random. For example, if your child draws a 7 and an 8, they would say, “7×8=56.” If you draw a 6 and a 4, you say, “6×4=24.” Because their product is larger, they win the four cards and put them at the bottom of their pile. Continue the game until one player runs out of cards.
While out shopping, perhaps at the grocery store, ask your child to keep a running tally of the bill. Every time you put something into the cart, tell them how much it costs (you can round up to the nearest dollar to make it easier). Not only will your child get to practice their mental math skills, but you’ll have an idea of how much you’re spending as you go, and you’ll also know the total amount of the spend before even getting to the register! The final bill will confirm whether your child calculated correctly, or if they came close!
Pick a number. Give your child one minute to find as many ways as they can to make the number using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
With the Kumon method, we focus on progress through and mastery of the four operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Within the addition, the Kumon method starts with plus ones, in sums up to 10, and then up to 20, all displayed horizontally. Plus one through plus ten are introduced methodically in this manner. For subtraction, students start by subtracting one, then two, then three and for multiplication, the focus is on mastering one math fact at a time, starting with the 2 times tables.
Learning some basic, but useful, mental math strategies can work to greatly improve your child’s self-confidence. As you can see, practicing developing mental math for kids can be fun!