Mathnasium 3801 Dylan Place, #112, Lexington KY 40514 (859) 219-0001

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News from Mathnasium of West Lexington

Calculators, Calculators, and More Calculators!!

Aug 30, 2017

by Tim Scifres, Owner, Mathnasium of West Lexington


I was thinking the other day about how much math education has changed over the years.  One aspect I hear about a lot that has changed is how calculators are being used in math classrooms. Many of students have become so dependent on using a calculator they are losing the ability to do basic computations without pulling out their phones to use the calculator.  (It is ironic thinking back to my math teachers telling us we needed to know our math facts because we wouldn’t always have a calculator with us!  Guess we all got that one wrong).  This leads me to ask a couple of questions.  Is it really THAT big of a problem for children to use their calculator so much?  Are there really THAT many benefits to learning mental math strategies to do basic math computations?


Here at Mathnasium we emphatically answer both of those questions with a resounding YES!! There are many benefits for students as the result of learning how to reason through the solving of computational problems using mental math.  Students who learn to use strategies for solving math problems mentally have more avenues they can take when solving problems.  They are able to “reason” through problems and not rely solely on memorization.  Students with strong mental math strategies show benefits in areas other than just the math classroom.    Their whole mindset can change and affect performance in all disciplines of study in and out of a classroom setting by applying tools and strategies used in learning mental math strategies.  There are many scientific studies showing these benefits.


Many of the studies in the link above show compelling evidence of the benefits of students becoming strong in applying mental math strategies.  However, seeing students put these strategies into practice and seeing them transform into much more confident students is so much better than reading about some studies done in the past.  My favorite sound in our Center or in my classroom is when students have an “aha moment” as they gain new understanding in a topic that has previously been a struggle for them.  Many of these “aha moments” are the direct result of learning and implementing a  tool or strategy, like mental math, they have been working on at Mathnasium.  


Here are two examples of using a mental math strategy:  Firstly, let's consider 99×3=?.  At Mathnasium we  teach our students to compute 100×3, then subtract 3.  Another example would be: 8+5=?.  For this problem we teach our students to change the problem by decomposing the 5 into 2+3 and turn the problem into 8+2=10 then 10+3=13.  These strategies are using the Power of Ten in which adding or multiplying by a power of ten is much easier to compute than other numbers.


Early in the school year is a perfect time for students to begin practicing mental math, putting those calculators away, and learning strategies to help with mental computations!  A major focus at Mathnasium is equipping students with tools and strategies to use for basic math computations.  If your child could use some help to learn some of these tools and strategies that will assist them in thinking their way through math problems without using a calculator, give us a call at (859) 219-0001 or visit our website for more information.  At Mathnasium of West Lexington we would be honored to get to know you and work with your student!!