At St James’ CE Primary, we place great emphasis on calculating skills, both mental and formal written calculations.
Our Mental Calculations guide is a summary of some of the most useful mental calculation strategies. Please support your child by talking through different methods, being aware that there are often various ways to work something out (and rarely one right way). Remember these are mental calculations, so they’re quite hard to explain on paper – please ask if you’re unsure.
The quick recall of multiplication and division facts (times tables) is really important for all children. The ability to recall these facts quickly (rather than taking too long working them out) helps children to answer questions in lots of areas of Maths much more easily. Based on the National Curriculum, the expectation of times tables is:
- Year 2: 2x, 5x, 10x
- Year 3: 3x, 4x, 8x
- Year 4: 6x, 7x, 9x, 11x, 12x
- Year 5: all x and ÷ facts (12×12)
- Year 6: all x and ÷ facts (12×12) and related language/symbols (eg % and square root)
Remember: the expectation is for children to recall the division facts, too.
You can help your child at home using the series of spreadsheets below. To practise these at home:
- download the file (the year group label is a guide only) and it will open in an Excel spreadsheet
- press F9 for a new test (you can generate an unlimited number of different tests – just keep pressing F9 to generate a new test!)
Don’t test too early! We’ve created these tests to help you at home to check your child’s times tables knowledge – they won’t be especially helpful in helping your child to learn them. There are many ways in which children can learn times tables – for example, playing games, quick-fire questions from an adult, chanting tables, writing the tables out and using songs, websites or apps. This learning needs to take place before the knowledge gained can be assessed in a test.
Parents often ask for advice about how to support their children with calculations. Often, they don’t want to confuse things by teaching children new methods, but don’t know how we do things in school – things have changed a lot! The videos below demonstrate how we teach calculations, especially written calculations, in school.
The videos demonstrate various methods that children learn at school to help them add, subtract, multiply and divide. Some very early methods, such as those learnt in Reception and Y1, are not shown here.
The early parts of the videos show a lot of informal jottings to help mental maths. Before children tackle formal written calculations (seen later on in videos), they learn to use jottings, or notes, to help them calculate mentally. They support children’s understanding of the ideas behind the maths they’re doing, before taking those ideas on to more traditional methods (which are more ‘abstract’).
Children should be confident with a range of numerical skills before they learn some of these strategies. For example, it helps a lot if they’re confident to:
- Partition numbers – know that 734 is made up of 700, 30 and 4.
- Count forwards and backwards in ones, tens and hundreds
- Quickly recall number bonds – pairs of numbers that add together to make 10, 20 or 100 etc.
- Quickly recall all times tables (knowing within 5 seconds, not counting upwards)
We don’t put any age restriction or fixed expectation on the methods we’ve demonstrated here. Generally speaking, if a child can perform earlier methods correctly and quickly and explain what they’ve done, they’re ready for the next. Some of the methods in the videos can be used for more complex calculations which will often be learnt before moving on to other strategies.
Children should be able to tell you what methods they’ve already learnt in school – it would be better to try new ones at school first. Then, we suggest that you look at the videos with and without children, perhaps even having a go at some calculations shown with their child. Find a teacher if you have any problems!