Mental Math…It Can Be Fun!

Summer is the best time to fill in learning gaps that may occur throughout the school year.  I have found that mental math seems to be one of the most difficult math skills that plague students with learning differences.

Following are some easy, fun games you can play to strengthen mental math skills.  By the way, mental math is actually an auditory processing skill, so it will also help a student struggling with auditory processing issues.

  1. While driving in the car or just going about your daily business, ask your child to do easy mental math exercises.  Start with something you know your child can easily attain, even if it’s 2 plus 2.  Slowly build up to more difficult skills.  Try to not let your child use his/her fingers or other means to count unless you have to.

  2. Get a squirt bottle and some empty milk jugs.  Give the filled squirt bottle to your child (colored water can be fun) and call off a math problem you know he/she can do.  The student is to say the problem in his/her mind with each squirt while aiming at the milk jug.  For instance, if you called off three plus three, then the student should squirt, say three in his/her mind, squirt again, say plus, squirt again, say three, squirt again and then say six.  This is all done in the mind, but ask for the answer verbally so you know the activity was actually performed. (This exercise also strengthens the hands for writing).

  3. Get a giant ball, such as an exercise ball.  Make a line on the ground.  The student is to bounce the ball to you and skip count in his/her head, starting with counting by 2’s.  The student is to say the first one in his/her mind, but you are to say yours out loud so you can keep track. Move on to 3’s, 4’s, etc.

  4. Have your child hop on one foot while skip counting in his/her head.  Switch feet when tired. Your child can also jump on two feet, skip, jump rope, or any other physical activity that you can think of.

You can come up with similar ideas of your own. Mental math is one of the most important skills a student can have for higher level math, and when it is strengthened, then it becomes easier to remember formulas and do the actual work that is necessary to succeed in math.

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