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Mental Addition & Subtraction

What is mental maths?


The ability to work sums in your head is an important skill that primary students must develop throughout the key stages. We explain what mental maths means in National Curriculum terms, and how you can help your child become a quick calculations whizz!


What does mental maths mean?

The concept of mental maths still means being able to give an answer to a maths question after thinking about it, rather than making notes on paper, but in school mental maths skills are expanded to include being able to truly understand maths concepts and solve problems in a logical, methodical way.


What mental maths skills are taught?

Children will always be taught to calculate in their head, but it’s not until Key Stage 1 that they’ll start to learn specific strategies to plan how they’d solve problems mentally.

For instance, in Year 1 they’ll learn to add by putting the largest number first, then counting up by the smaller number. They’ll also learn to add near doubles (5+4, 7+6) by knowing what adding the double would be, then increasing the value by 1, etc. As they progress through Key Stage 2, they’ll use their knowledge of times tables to multiply and divide with increasing speed and accuracy.


Is mental maths tested in SATs?

Children will need to use mental maths skills in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 SATs, particularly in the Year 6 arithmetic paper 1.

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