Q&A #546

Mental calculation in maths

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Sep 15, 1998 at 22:56:24
Subject: Re: Mental calculation in maths

I don't have experience teaching primary students but I will give you some of
my ideas, having taught some older children and adults.  I am also a parent
of five children.

When I asked older students to mentally do any calculation, I asked them to
form a mental picture of what is happening.  Mathematicians like you and I do
calculations without much thought.  We are automatic pilots.  My youngest son
was able to do multiplication when he was in kindergarten.  (Today he is a
professional mathematician! So he had some talent).  My eighth grade students
thought he was so smart when they would ask him what is 6 x 5.  He would
think for some time and then give the answer as 30.  At this stage in his
life, he did not know the multiplication tables.  One day I asked him how he
did it.  He told me that he saw the six fives in his head.  He added them one
at a time to get the thirty. In essence he was counting by five six times.
Perhaps you could have your children orally count by different integers such
as the sixes or the sevens:6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, etc.  Division, prior to
learning their tables, is subtracting the same digit and mentally counting
the number of times.

Don't allow yourself to be long-winded.  Make the children be long-winded.
Have them recite the number out loud while someone else is checking.

Hopefully someone who works with very young children will be able to help you
more than I can.

-Marielouise, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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