A variety of learning experiences reinforces the big ideas associated with the development of mental computation.
Fluency and flexibility in thinking are critical to developing effective mental computation skills. Developing fluency requires an ability to recall facts as well as an understanding of number properties. Flexibility is recognition of the demands of a problem and the selection of the best strategy for the numbers involved.
Many key ideas have been collected under three areas:
- addition and subtraction
- multiplication and division
- combined operations.
Everyday problems might require several steps using different operations.
Using contexts that are meaningful to students as opposed to using 'naked numbers' can assist students to make connections and see relationships between numbers. Contexts can be real or imaginary.
Addition and subtraction
Addition and subtraction are two of the four arithmetic operations that are used in mental calculation.
Multiplication and division
Good teaching of mental calculation of multiplication and division uses physical models and a variety of learning experiences including games, everyday contexts and opportunities for students to build connections.
Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are binary operations, meaning it is only possible to calculate with a pair of numbers at a time. Many everyday problems require a sequence of calculations, sometimes involving different operations.