So, what is 'Mental Math' anyway? And, why is it important?
'Mental Math' is a colloquially-accepted reference to the memorization of elements of basic math fluency. This includes rudimentary elements of mathematics that includes addition and subtraction facts, the multiplication tables, and how they relate to division and long-division calculations. We continue to see that very little else is achievable in the study of mathematics without a comprehensive familiarization with these fundamental building blocks ... which should be completed by the end of Grade 3 (Grade 4 for long-division).
Why is ‘Mental Math’ important?
The process of learning, and any educational journey, is more than often predicated on some base level of acquired or memorized knowledge. This ‘base’ level of knowledge provides the supporting pillars on which to build, develop, or expand knowledge in a given area.
Students who have memorized the mandatory elements of basic math fluency find it easier to transition to evolving – and advanced – areas of mathematics such as Fractions (and Rates & Ratios), Algebra, Functions, and Calculus (to cite only a few). Students who have mastered math fluency do not end up wasting time dealing with the computational elements, but are more readily able to focus on the more important conceptual elements associated with advanced mathematics.
I’ve seen how uncertain and frustrated students become with a Discovery Math approach simply because they experience difficulty during the ‘Discovery’ process itself. It also ends up being that they’re able to easily learn math in a straightforward manner. ‘91 x 5’ should not become (91 x 2) + (91 x 2) + 91. It is simply ‘91 x 5’ (via multiplication). 1/10 + 1/10 = 2/10 = 1/5 (in simplified form) … not 2/20 as recently recounted to me by a High School student who cited a Science teacher’s attempt to calculate 1/10 + 1/10. Every DEFT Math student in Level 6 Math or beyond knows that the correct answer to 1/10 + 1/10 is 1/5.
Students are taught vocabulary and expected to remember how to conjugate verbs in language courses such as French (for example) in a structured manner. They are taught important dates, events, and locations and places of interest in History and Geography. Memorization of the elements in the Periodic Table is often included in many secondary school chemistry courses. To completely abandon a similarly structured approach - of memorization of basic math facts – inherent in ‘Discovery Math’ is inconsistent, and does not serve a student’s needs.
Outside of their classroom, students are often called to commit a variety of things to memory associated with extra-curricular activities: a musical composition from a piece of sheet music, the lines associated with a role in a drama production, movements associated with the choreography of a dance routine, and so on. To deny them an opportunity to develop proficiency with basic math facts fails to instill confidence in their academic abilities.
It is important that students develop Mental Math skills by the end of Grade 8. Once in Secondary School, the timeline to do this is significantly reduced and the window of opportunity all but disappears.
Ensuring that students memorize basic math facts does not require a significant investment in revolutionary educational research; it is not preparing for inter-planetary space travel. It is a birth right owed to every young student! Every DEFT Math student in Level 3 Math is required to demonstrate mastery of the multiplication tables. Students at DEFT Learning Academy are disallowed the use of a calculator up to the end of Grade 8 Math. DEFT students experience the academic success that accompanies these standards and practices.
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