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Teaching children to calculate mentally

This publication has been adapted from Teaching mental calculation strategies – guidance for teachers at Key Stages One and Two, produced in 1999 by the National Numeracy Strategy and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (now QCDA). Its overall aim is to assist teachers’ planning by:

• listing the number facts that students are expected to recall rapidly
• setting out expectations for the types of calculations that students should be able to do mentally
• identifying the mental methods that might be taught to students to help them to calculate accurately and efficiently
• suggesting a range of suitable classroom activities and resources to help students to understand and practise calculation methods.

The four chapters of the booklet cover:

Chapter 1. Progression in mental calculation skills
This describes the progression in the number facts that students should derive and recall, the calculations that they are expected to do mentally and the range of calculation strategies or methods that they can draw on.

Chapter 2. Principles of teaching mental calculation
This promotes a broad interpretation of mental calculation and identifies principles that underpin teaching: for example, encouraging children to share their mental methods, to choose efficient strategies and to use informal jottings to keep track of the information they need when calculating. It also looks at the role of tests and questioning.

Chapter 3. Addition and subtraction strategies
This sets out the main strategies for adding and subtracting mentally. It describes activities to support teaching of these strategies and typical problems.

Chapter 4. Multiplication and division strategies
This sets out the main strategies for multiplying and dividing mentally. Again, it describes activities to support teaching of these strategies and typical problems.

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