Mathematical Learning

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • June 3, 2020, 10:26 a.m.

By Ashley Taplin

As we close out this unconventional school year, I am proud to be part of a resilient, creative, and passionate profession of education. I have been challenged, yet inspired, as we all have been exploring new platforms and strategies to grow our practice and engage our learners in this time of distance learning. As we part for summer, I wish you time to relax and recharge, and hope the ideas below can be some simple, yet enriching, ways to continue students’ and our own mathematical learning in between the well-deserved days of break.

Mental Math

Mental math is one of my favorite ways to develop students’ fluency and computation skills. In the classroom, I used to do “Mental Math Mondays” as a warm up to bring us back from the weekend and refocus. I think this could easily be implemented in our last few weeks of distance learning through a live video or recorded for students to do on their own. Here’s how it works: Tell students to put all materials away such as pens, pencils, or calculators and not to talk; not to say things like “wait, wait” or “ahh I lost it” (they will do that), because it’s all about listening and processing. Tell students when you are done, and only then, to raise their hands if they got the answer (mine tend to just blurt it out at the end which is sometimes okay too, if they can’t control the excitement!) Now, call out a series of operations starting with a single number. I just make it up as I go and calculate in my head as I say it, but you can create the series if you want before and read it off.

Example: take the number 25, add 5, divide by 3, double it, divide by 4, add 2, square it, add 3, subtract 10, divide by 2, subtract 1. Did you get 20?

You can get more or less complicated…throw in fractions, negatives, triple digits, etc. As students become more comfortable with it, they could also create their own problems for their family at home and practice over the summer to enrich their conceptual and procedural skills.

Online Community #MTBoS

Lastly, if you are looking for a math education community, I highly suggest following the Twitter hashtag #MTBoS (MathTwitterBlogoSphere). Following and engaging in conversation has led me to discover incredibly inspiring math educators all over the world who are collaborative and creative in their approaches. I have discovered new ways to use classroom tools such as DesmosWODBOpen MiddleEstimation 180, and more that have helped enrich my in-person and virtual instruction. Additionally, one member-- Howie Hua, is hosting a collaborative summer learning series and as he states this is “a way to learn from each other through low-floor high-ceiling exercises in hopes that we can take these exercises to our classrooms in the upcoming academic year.” If you would like to sign up to participate here is the link. I hope you find the same inspiration in the MTBoS community as I do to continue to learn and grow together.

Join us for a 1.5 hour virtual seminar on Using Number Talks to Develop Mental Math Abilities on June 25th from 9am to 10:30am CST!!!


Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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