Guidance Paper: Oral and Mental Work in Mathematics

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This paper, produced by the National Strategies, provides guidance, with examples, on how to strengthen children’s oral and mental skills. It includes vocabulary and a guide to use when identifying the purposes of oral and mental work.

At the time the National Numeracy Strategy was introduced, there was concern that children’s mental calculation skills and recall of facts were generally weak. In the 1999 Framework for teaching mathematics the description of a typical daily mathematics lesson included a starter that covered oral work and mental calculation (about 5 to 10 minutes).

Over time, the focus on oral and mental calculation has widened and become a vehicle for teaching a range of mathematics. Too often, the ‘starter’ has become an activity extended beyond the recommended 5 to 10 minutes. In these situations, there can be more teacher talk than there is oral and mental work that engages and involves the children.

There is some evidence that the focus on oral and mental calculation has been lost and needs to be reinvigorated, this paper sets out to offer guidance on how this could be achieved and includes an example lesson using an oral and mental activity.

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