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Mental Math Games (Part 2 of 3)
In the introductory article, it was argued that learning mental math skills remains an important element of a child’s education, even in the age of the calculator. So what should you do if you think your child’s math needs a boost? Rather than rushing to the problem, it is important to first establish how your student is performing in relation to their peer group, how mathematics is taught in school, and how engaged they are in the subject.
Start by meeting with the classroom teacher to find out how your child is being taught mental math at school. Is it using traditional methods that mix rote learning and test-type questions? Does the class use eLearning software to teach math lessons on a whiteboard or for individual learning? In most cases, teaching will include a mixture of all three elements, in which case it is important to hear from your child which approach to learning they like and respond to best. The last question to ask the teacher is how your child is doing in relation to the class as a whole when it comes to mental math. If his mental math performance is average or above average for his age, you can take an approach to improving his mental math skills through fun math games and activities that allow the child to progress at his own pace. However, if your child is falling behind their peer group, a more structured and intensive period of remedial mental math is appropriate, in which you spend a set amount of time each week on mental math activities and follow closely monitor its progress. Whichever approach you take, we’ll look at some fun ways to bring math into your child’s everyday life in a way that they won’t realize they’re improving their math skills.
Sports and games with mental math
When I was at school, the best mental maths student in our class was a boy who didn’t like maths at all, but outside of school he spent most of his time playing darts. He studied finance and is now a very successful merchant banker, which is a moral tale that will appeal to some parents more than others. However, darts are an excellent game for improving a child’s mental math skills. The game engages players in the full range of math: subtraction, addition, multiplication and division as part of the scoring process. Better yet, the complexity of the mental math skills required to score and calculate “finishes” increases as a player’s darts skills improve, so your child’s mental math and darts skills will improve from hand For parents concerned about the safety implications of allowing children to play darts, there are a number of youth darts alternatives for younger children that follow the same format as playing conventional darts, but without any of the risk of injury .
The other traditional leisure activity that I advocate for improving math skills is playing board games. There are numerous board games that involve rolling dice to move around a board, but one of the best board games for developing the full range of math skills is Monopoly. When playing Monopoly, each player moves around a board buying, developing, and selling properties with the goal of bankrupting all other players to win. What makes Monopoly different from many board games is that one of the players is appointed banker, a role that requires them to handle many of the financial aspects of the game, such as arranging mortgages on property, collecting payments and giving change. If you put a kid whose math needs a boost in the role of banker (and make sure the other players have the patience of saints) in time, you’ll find their mental math skills flourish while everyone has fun. The good thing is that Monopoly gives everyone more than enough time to practice math, as the game has a reputation for being endless. In fact, the longest recorded game of Monopoly lasted 1,680 hours, which is 70 days or 10 weeks. Think how good your young banker’s mental math would be after such a monumental game, and how frayed the tempers of others might be as a result!
In the final article of the series, we will consider the role that online math games can play in improving a child’s mental math skills.
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