Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction


We all want our kids to be happy, confident, well rounded individuals who excel at every subject at school and who will contribute fully to society, but all those dreams fall apart after asking them,

” Sara, what’s 15 + 17?”

As patient and loving parents we can deal with the long pause, but, if after that the answer is still wrong, then we wonder what have they been learning at school for the past 2, 5, or even 10 years! Have they never studied mental maths?

All is not lost

In this series I will show you what you (yes you, not the tutor, not their teacher, not the local Kumon centre) can do to rescue the situation.

If you can set aside 2 minutes a day for at least 4 months, your child’s mental maths problems will slowly but surely melt away.

Before we get started, make sure you’ve read my post about the importance of daily practice.


Don’t worry, I’ll be there to hold your hand (and I’m hoping others will share their mental maths strategies as well).

Want to know what’s coming up in the rest of the series?

Part 1- Where do I start?

I’ll show you how the starting point is crucial to improving your child’s mental maths confidence (but you don’t necessarily need to start the very beginning)

Part 2- Where can I get questions from and how do I use them?

Here you’ll find some links for mental maths resources and I’ll show you how best to use them.

So stop by soon (or even better subscribe to the email feed to get new posts direct to your inbox or to the rss feed to see them in your rss reader.)

I’m looking forward to you using the comments box below to share which mental maths strategies have worked well with your child?

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

14 thoughts on “Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction

  1. Hi Carolin

    It’s very nice to share your ideas on mental maths. I am thing of sending my son th UCMAS classes to learn mental maths using a Japanese abacus. What are your views on that?


    Dina Patel

    • Hi Dina
      I had a look into UCMAS a few months ago. As a mental maths system it seems to be fast, especially for hard sums like say 79 x 29. What I didn’t like about it was the reliance on using fingers in the calculation (Kumon drummed into us instructors that using fingers was to be discouraged). There are also other websites and you tube videos which teach abacus arithmetic. How about trying some of those first to see how your son finds the system?

  2. Have you seen Rathmell and Leutzinger’s research on this? It’s aimed at teachers, but it’s really interesting. I’m particularly fond of the use-10 thinking strategies (and then, of course) once master a strategy there’s nothing like practice.

    Rathmell’s work is summarized quite nicely in this Q&A if you’re interested: http://thinkingwithnumbers.com/QuestionsAnswers/index.html

    I’ve also found that you can disguise a lot of math practice as a game. If you play go-fish, but instead of wanting 4 of a kind, you want a pair of numbers that add to 10, you can get in rather a lot of focused practice without it seeming like too much work. I rather like playing chutes and ladders with 2 10-sided dice to practice the easier subtraction facts (subtract the smaller from the larger number, and that’s how many spaces you go).

    • Yes I agree, drills do need to be used alongside basic facts strategies and number games. There are many strategies for the basic facts, say for 5+7 you can us doubles or adding to 10 then counting on to name just a few, so when I was a Kumon instructor, I found it important to ask the students what their strategy was first, and only if they were struggling with their own strategy or didn’t have one would I present 1 or 2 for them to try.

      Like the 10 sided dice idea!

  3. Hi Caroline!
    I came over from 31DBBB to check out your site – I am a HS Math Teacher so your blog interested me a lot!
    From the standpoint of a blogger, I like your blog a lot. I like how all the links are easily accessible from the main page. Very straightforward, not flashy or anything.
    This particular page, though, I”m not fond of. I don’t like having to click to 3 different pages to get all the information of the article I’m trying to read. HOWEVER I do realize that it lowers your bounnce rate, which is good from a blogging standpoint but not so much from a readers standpoint.

    Keep up the good work and good luck with the rest of the ProBlogger challenge.

    • Thanks for passing by and thanks for the feedback, it’s great to get feedback from a fellow blogger! Will look to adding a link or tab with all 3 “lightening” posts.

  4. Hi,
    I think you’ve found a winning topic on this one! Many parents agonize over their kids and math; I did for a while…
    Thanks for giving other moms a chance to learn how to help. Nothing is more demoralizing than a child who feels locked out of a math problem… I stopped by via Day 25 of the 31DBBB Challenge. I also added one of my question posts to the forum.

    • Welcome! I’m glad you’ve found Maths Insider! I hope it’ll be a place for people to share their ideas based on what I write about each week. Do let me know of any ideas you think would we helpful for me to cover (and you’ve got me curious as to what you did or found out that helped you stop worrying about your child’s maths! Please share!)

  5. I also would like tips for little kids. I have a son who is almost 5. We are doing lots of M&M math. Sorting colors, adding colors, subtracting (which is yummy with m&M’s)
    But I wonder if I should start some drills now. I messed up with my older boys (bad at drilling and they are paying for it now)

    I am doing +1 with him, which he really likes. Any other tips?

    • What I’d suggest is making sure he knows his numbers up to 100 REALLY well. I was stealing ideas discussing with a friend about using the 4 learning styles (visual, auditory, reading/writing, tactile). So say, with +1, show him what that means on a number chart (next number), show him orally, write and read it out, and show him with M&M’s. Rotate each of these styles in your drills, focusing on his least favourite learning style. Use the same idea’s to revise the numbers up to 100.

      • So glad you didn’t ‘steal’ any ideas, but applied what you/we discussed :))
        Experts categorise learning styles into 3 but I prefer 4. Speaking/listening (auditory from self and others), reading (visual), writing (kinaesthetic and visual), doing (kinaesthetic or tactile)..

        A parent’s/teacher’s awareness and application of the different learning styles can make a huge difference to a child’s learning. If a child finds it hard to sit still, or write out sums, or repeat drills or read from a chart, maximise on their learning style by giving him/her something to do that helps them internalise the maths involved. This doesn’t mean to say that you should ignore the other learning styles that your child may not be so good at. The best learners are those who are able to learn using all 4 styles -multiple intelligence- and that’s what we all want our children to have.

        Try these sites to learn more about how we learn:

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