What is Mental Math and Why is It Important for Children?

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    Teachers usually use strategies like games and worksheets to ensure that kids find math an easy subject. Mental math is one of the strategies that can help your kids develop their foundational math skills. But before delving into the benefits of mental math for your child, let’s answer the question “what does mental math mean?”

    What Is Mental Math?

    Mental math is a method used in mathematics where kids have to solve mathematical problems in their minds without using pens, paper, or calculators. Once you begin manipulating numbers and thinking about solutions to math problems in your head, you are already using mental math.

    We use mental math every day, sometimes even without knowing it. Mental math examples include thinking about how many minutes it should take one to reach the grocery store, how many chores one would do in a day, etc. Unfortunately, people downplay the importance of mental math; so, they do not encourage their kids to develop the skill early. In addition, people now rely on calculators and gadgets to solve math problems.

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    Importance of Mental Math Skills

    Mental math is an essential skill that every child must possess since it stimulates the brain. Math skills exercise the left brain, while cognitive mental math skills stimulate the right brain so that your child can be creative and imaginative. When your kids do mental math, they can visualize numbers and think of innovative ways of dealing with a math problem.

    Mental math is something we all use daily. When children concentrate, they can establish relationships between numbers and trigger their retention abilities. Mental math also builds self-esteem since kids can solve math problems without the need for calculators. 

    The Ways to Get Better at Mental Math

    There are times when your kid may find themselves without paper, a pen, or a calculator and needs to solve a math problem. For instance, they may need to share cookies with friends at the playground. With mental math, children can solve the problem in their head. If your child wants to solve math problems without aid, here are some ways to help them get better at mental math.

    Use of flashcards

    Repetition and practice make perfect. To be good at mental math, a child needs to repeat their timetables and use other data for mathematical computation. Flashcards are fun and exciting learning aids. For instance, ask your child to provide you with multiples of 36 in a minute. You can set limits for delivering the answers.

    Number targeting

    While teaching your child how to do mental math, use number targeting. Give your child a number and a target to begin the game. For instance, the target could be 10, while you give them the number 4. The child will need to think of the number they can add to 4 or remove 4 from to reach 10. You can tweak this game to fit your child’s needs.

    Double and Slice

    The Double and Slice is a convenient game as you may play it while waiting for the school bus or even while you bathe your kid. Mention an even number, like 4, and have your child double the number and give you the outcome: 4 x 2 = 8. Then teach a kid the concept of division by telling them to half the product: 8/2 = 4. Add more digits depending on your child’s knowledge of numbers.

    Brain teasers

    Brain teasers are clever ways for your kids to understand how numbers work. You can use brain teasers like puzzles and riddles to improve your child’s mental math ability. Brain teasers like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc., can exercise your children’s cognitive math abilities.

    Logical thinking skills

    Giving children math problems that challenge their logical thinking skills can prove helpful in other phases of the kids’ lives. Teach them to double, approximate, and share numbers into two halves without using their fingers or paper. You could also have them calculate how much it would take to save up a certain amount of money.

    Use of math learning platforms

    Today, there are many online activities that you can use to improve your child’s mental math skills. Here is where Brighterly comes into the picture. Brighterly is an online math learning platform with tutors that can engage your kids in activities that help improve mental math abilities. The expert math tutors understand that every child is unique; so, they customize their teaching plans to fit your children’s needs.

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    Mental Math Tricks

    As children move from one class to another, they can solve problems using mental math better. With time, kids move from basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to more complex problems like square roots, factorization, etc. Here are some mental math strategies that can assist your kid in improving their mental math.

    Breaking addition and subtraction operations into bits and pieces

    One of the best mental math strategies for addition is to break hundreds, tens, and units into various parts and solve the problems individually.

    For instance, if your child has the problem 421 + 137 = X, they should try to do 400 + 100 = 500, 20 + 30 = 50, and 1 + 7 = 8. Then they can add 500 + 50 + 8 to get 558.

    For mental math subtraction, change the signs (-). So, 421 – 137 becomes 400 – 100 = 300, 20 – 30 = -10, and 1 – 7 = -6. You get 300 – 10 – 6 = 284

    Approximate problems

    For mental math multiplication, you can round numbers before calculation. When you get your result, adjust them to their original form.

    For instance, if you have 28 x 3 = X, add 2 to 28 to get a round number, 30. Then do 30 x 3 = 90. Take the 2 you added and multiply it by 3. So, 2 x 3 = 6, which brings the answer to 90 – 6 = 84. 

    Division tricks

    To help your kids carry out division operations successfully, teach them vital facts. Here is a quick way to learn how to do mental math faster:

    • If a number ends with 0, you can divide it by 2, 5, and 10.
    • If, after adding numbers, they produce an even number and are divisible by 3, you can divide the number by 6.
    • Any number that ends with 0 or 5 is divisible by 5.

    This trick allows kids to learn numbers that are divisible by other numbers.


    From this article, you can see that mental math significantly impacts the success of your children in learning math. Your kids do not need to depend on calculators to carry out simple mathematical operatives. When you pay careful attention to helping your kids do mental math, they will have a better mathematical foundation.

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