Managing mental maths

May 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm 2 comments

Just wanted to make some notes on two different approaches to mental maths tests. In both my last and current placement the teacher facilitated around 15 minutes mental maths practice at the start of each maths lesson, and set a mental maths test at the end of each week. In my last placement, this was a written test, with 20 questions to answer in two minutes, all on one times table. The teacher marked the answers and noted the scores on a record sheet. If a child scored more 18/20 or more they could move on to the next times table the following week. The teacher encouraged them to think of it as a challenge to themselves, not a competition with others.

In this placement, the mental maths test is given orally (children write the answers), with 10 questions for each maths group (3 groups). The teacher calls out the answers and the children mark each others’ papers. Then they have to read out their score so the teacher can note it on the record.

In both cases, the teachers have found a considerable improvement in children’s mental maths from their approaches, so much respect is due.

Personally I would change the second approach so the children were not reading out their score – to me this aspect makes the whole thing competitive, which I think the research on formative assessment suggests is not helpful. The second approach is fine for those who do well in the test (which is actually most of the class most of the time) but, i feel, liable to humiliate and discourage those who don’t get as high a score as their peers.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John  |  May 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    A really thoughtful post, and I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. From a classroom point of view, I think you’re right when you say about not wanting to humiliate people in front of their peers.
    Often, I have the children stand up, so, 20/20 stand up, then 19/20 and so on, normally down to about 16/20. After that, I think it’s not fair to ask out loud 🙂

    Sounds like you’re doing well though, good work!

  • 2. katymacdougall  |  May 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Thanks John – that’s a great idea; credit to the top scores without embarrassing anybody else.


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