Daily oral / mental math

A few minutes of oral / mental math at the start of each day has been shown to be very effective at consolidating key understandings. About 5 minutes seems to be a good amount of time.

The concepts discussed should be critical ideas for the year, weaknesses the teacher hopes to remediate, or past skills that will be used in that day’s lesson. For example, if measuring things using a large number of paperclips is the topic, then a couple of minutes on grouping items by 10 to count would fit in.

Some areas that have looked at the implementation of the oral math time found teachers tended to spend too long on the mental math section, which rushed their subsequent lessons and consolidation. Teachers should strive to pick small discrete skills that can be practiced (not learned) in a 5 minute time frame.

This should not look like standard ‘bell’ work, but more like the following:

1. Class is asked one question.
2. All students respond in some fashion – whiteboards are ideal for this.
3. Some students are asked to share their thinking or strategies.
4. Next question is given. The difficulty can be modified depending on success of the previous question.
5. Repeat for about 5 questions in total.

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