Mental Math: Games and Activities for Kids

Mental math problems are solved without paper, pencil or a calculator. With practice, mental math can help your child increase his or her speed and confidence for solving math equations. At home, play the games below to help your child practice and have fun at the same time.

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How Can Mental Math Games Help My Child?

Mental math games help students strengthen their math skills while still having fun. As they get older, kids increasingly use calculators in math class and many become reliant on them. Help your child develop strong mental math skills so that he can complete problems more quickly and without the crutch of a calculator.

The games below can be used for a variety of math concepts, regardless of your child's age. Remember that the key to mental math games is to give your child practice solving math equations in his head. Therefore, the topic and level of difficulty should meet your child's needs. For instance, for a third grader, the problems below could be used to practice and review the times tables.

If your child is older, try including equations that need to be simplified, such as 4 (x + 2). Alternatively, you may include percentage problems because they are often used in the real world. For instance, one question could be to find 20% of 100. Remember that these problems should be challenging but also simple enough for him to solve in his mind.

Two Mental Math Games

Race to the Finish

Turn a regular board game into a fun review. For this game, you can use any board game that has a path and movable pieces. To prepare, write some mental math problems on note cards. For each turn, draw a note card. If you answer it correctly, move your piece forward.

This game can be played with multiple people or just you and your child. As an additional challenge, allow the other players to steal the question if the first player answers incorrectly. Additionally, your child might enjoy making the note cards with you. That way, she is involved in the creative process.

Hot Potato

Like the previous game, you'll need to make note cards with mental math problems on them. As in a typical game of hot potato, you will need a timer and a small object to represent your potato. Set the timer - you may want to try three minutes to start with - and begin playing by passing the potato back and forth. Whoever has it will flip over a note card and answer as quickly as possible before passing it back. When the timer goes off, the person who isn't holding the potato is the winner.

The benefit of this game is that it's quick, so your child will not lose interest. At the same time, it provides practice and motivation to solve math problems mentally. Consider having a third person stop the clock randomly to add more spontaneity to the game.

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