I would like to make a case for raising the importance of mental math as a major component in students’ tool kits of mathematical knowledge. Mental math is often associated with the ability to do computations quickly, but in its broadest sense, mental math also involves conceptual understanding and problem solving. (Cath Seeley NCTM President)
With the implementation of the new curriculum we have recently changed our approach to the teaching of mental maths. Instead of the traditional class based session during Numeracy hour with mixed ability children we now 'set' for a weekly mental maths session.
The sets are based upon children's current maths level and teacher assessment of their mental maths ability and confidence. Confidence plays a huge part in all areas of maths but perhaps even more so in mental maths due probably to its fast pace. Setting results in mixed age range groups and as we use TAs as well as teachers to deliver session allows for smaller,more targeted, groups.
We have been running these sessions for 5 weeks so it's too early to analyse the impact they are having however the reactions of the children has been really positive.
The emphasis from day one has been that the children are not competing with each other but with themselves. This then removes some of the potential stress and means that even if they score 10 out of 20 as long as they get 11 the following week to improve their score or at least get 10 to equal it then they are doing fine.
The results of each question are then analysed to identify common errors which informs the teaching for the following session. Any minor errors are addressed at the end of the session. The common errors in my group have been fractions, decimals and percentages with plave value and rounding up and down as the minor errors. All of these are easy to address and have led to some real quality targeted teaching.
From discussion with staff the language of maths seems to be an area which requires addressing for most groups. I think that as we use the language of maths everyday in our daily teaching we assume the children retain it all and know what it all means. Clearly this isn't true and needs to looked at.
As maths co ordinator these sessions have been fascinating and have provided me with lots of areas for development to add to my maths development plan.
The next focus? Problem solving!