Build Your Mental Math Skills

Feb 3, 2020 | Pasadena

Too many students have become dependent on calculators these days!  They seem to be used so frequently in daily life - just press a button our smart phone. However, the ability to complete math problems without the aid of a calculator can help test-takers avoid certain errors and work more quickly through number crunching tests. 

We encourage all of our students to learn to do certain math without any help of a calculator. To develop this competency, start by abandoning your calculator for the simplest math tasks, and then increase the difficulty. Relying on a calculator for every computation can be a difficult habit to break. In many instances, calculators have become students’ default solution to math operations, whether the operations at hand are complex or not. To reverse this unproductive habit, start small.

Opt to perform any one or two digit operations in your head. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing small numbers should not require the use of a calculator.  Especially, if you try your hand at estimating then your answers don't have to be exactly right.  Just get in the ball park to get comfortable.

If you find yourself struggling to do basic math mentally, first consider revisiting your times tables.  This will work those memory muscles and build up your confidence.  Next, pledge to perform all calculations mentally for numbers up to twelve. Once you feel more comfortable with doing simple math in your head, increase the threshold to fifteen.

Relearning basic math concepts, such as multiplication tables, can save precious time on a math test. Staying fresh on the basics can also remind you of relationships between numbers, which then makes doing more complicated math easier. Another benefit of strengthening your math foundation is the avoidance of careless mistakes. By depending on your own knowledge rather than on a calculator, you become less susceptible to keystroke errors that could cause you to lose points. Students who blindly rely on calculators sometimes do not realize when they press a wrong button and therefore arrive at an incorrect answer.

Complete day-to-day math tasks mentally. Everyday life provides us with many situations that we could utilize to sharpen our math skills. Consider, for example, shopping. Any time you make a purchase, you can use arithmetic to arrive at your total before you even reach the check-out counter. Moreover, you can put percentages into practice by calculating sales tax in your head, or the amount you save by presenting coupons. You also have the opportunity to strengthen your math skills as you eat. Practice more with percentages by mentally calculating the tip amount at restaurants. If you eat at home, look at the nutrition facts on food packages. Try calculating the percent daily value of the nutrients you get from whatever serving size you consume. Whether you dine in or out, there is an occasion to apply math to your everyday routine. Reducing your reliance on calculators is likely to be an uncomfortable experience at first. But if you forego a calculator for the easiest math tasks and increase the difficulty with time, you will become more comfortable and confident in your math skills. Then do the same with practice tests and real-life math tasks, and you will be surprised by the results.


Original article: US News (Tiffany Sorenson, Contributor)