Boost Your Child's Mental Math Skills

If your child understands math concepts but has a hard time doing mental math, here's how you can help at home.

It’s a common dilemma: your child is thriving in math, but lagging in mental math. For example, one mother writes, “my daughter’s good at math: she understands the concepts and her grades are fine. But she has a hard time doing mental math. She still counts on her fingers. I am concerned that as math gets more difficult, she will struggle.”

What to do?
Luckily, there are many ways parents can help boost mental math skills at home — while keeping it light and fun. A great tool to improve your child’s math proficiency and speed is the computer. There are lots of computer games that require a math fact to be solved within a given time. You can usually increase the speed on these games as your child’s proficiency improves. Children enjoy learning this way, and it is very effective.

Another fun tool is musical math CDs. The Rappin’ Mathematician is one. There are several that help students memorize facts by learning a song. This method is proven to be very effective.

Finally, good, old-fashioned drills and practice work well to improve speed and proficiency of math facts. Flash cards and games like Bizz Buzz are beneficial in improving kids’ recall of basic math facts.

The key to progress is consistent — and frequent — practice for short periods of time (think five to seven minutes). So, if your child can practice math facts three times per day for five minutes each time, it will be more effective than one 15- or 20-minute spurt. Use any of these methods for the short practice. Progress in proficiency typically comes pretty quickly and is often self-motivating. As your child improves, she’ll feel the satisfaction of success and be motivated to continue to practice and thus continue to improve.