Mental math is important for helping kids work out math problems efficiently. It also helps kids reason through word problems and higher level math skills. Unfortunately, most kids are weak in this area. Did you know that mental math is actually an auditory skill? It's hard to believe, but the work needed for this skill happens in the auditory processing portion of the brain.
So...how do you get kids to hone up on this skill? Usually, kids with weak auditory processing skills will avoid mental math like the plague. Following are some tips to help your child or student hone this important auditory/math skill. 1. Play one up, one down. Give your child or student a random number. Have him/her tell you the number that's one higher and one lower. Gradually make the numbers higher. You can work up to millions or billions...but do it slowly! Big jumps are too much for most kids to handle without stress.
2. Play in between. In this mental math game, say three easy numbers in a row, such as 7, 8, and 9. They don't have to be consecutive, but it's best to start out that way so the student can have something familiar to hold onto. Have the student tell you the number in the middle. You can work up to bigger numbers and then longer stretches of number combinations, as long as there is a number in the middle. For instance, you can say 18, 29, 43, 12, 98. The student tells you that 43 is the number in the middle. Once again, ease into larger numbers and stretches. 3. Have the student repeat a number combination back to you. Start easy with just two one-digit number such as 6 and 9. If your child can do this with ease, then make the numbers larger and give longer sequences. You might jump up to 17, 97, and 63. Build up slowly. For instance, once two two-digit numbers are mastered, move to three, then four, and so on. If your child gets frustrated, move back to an easier set and build from there.
4. Now have the student repeat a number combination back to you only in reverse order. Once again, start with just two one-digit numbers and move up to longer sequences once your child repeats several sets back to you correctly - in reverse order of course!
5. Give your child a basic math fact to perform mentally, making sure the eyes are closed and he/she is trying to visualize either the numbers or the process in the mind. This brings in the visual component, which makes it easier to tackle this tricky auditory skill. There you have it! A few games to play while you're driving or waiting in line. Once mental math is strong, you'll see math confidence grow.