Mental Computation During Lockdown…

Mental Computation During LOCK DOWN

As teachers spending all of our day on our computers due to us being in strict stage 4 lock downs in metropolitan Melbourne we are all probably going a little “MENTAL.”

It’s been 7 weeks since the Primary Maths Specialist Team presented our Mental Computational professional learning in the gym ensuring we were all socially distanced.

During the many days planning, what I hoped would be engaging maths activities for the Year 5 students while they were learning from home I was wondering how I could incorporate a mental computation sessions for my students.

Unlike our first phase of lock down way back in Term 2 as a school it was decided that we would connect with the students via a virtual classroom on WebEx. Immediately I saw this as an opportunity to work with smaller groups and trial a new strategy to engage the students in some fun approaches to incorporating Mental Computation during a maths lesson.

As a school we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in some inspiring Professional Learning online facilitated by Rob Vingahoets and Michael Minas Using

Using Games to Develop Fluency and Ramp Up Engagement (F-2)

Using Games to Develop Fluency and Ramp-Up Engagement (3-6)

After attending both of these wonderful PL sessions I decided to try and adapt some of the games that they presented to us.

The games that I trailed were:

  • How’d you Solve It?
  • Five Moves to 100
  • Greedy Pig

The students in my grade loved the games and I felt that it was a really fun and engaging way to incorporate a little Mental Computation to my weekly WebEx maths sessions.

Feel free to give them a go with your classes and if you would like copies of any of the power points please just email me.

How’d you Solve It…..

Students were given 2 minute to solve these problems in the head. They couldn’t use pen or paper or a calculator.

As the students were sharing their strategy I was able to ask questions like: Did anyone else solve it this way? Did anyone else have a different strategy? Could you re-explain how x solved that problem?

I used the annotate function in WebEx to represent student thinking on a number line for the addition problem and I was able to demonstrate student thinking using an area model for the multiplication problem.

Five Moves to One Hundred

This game is a game of skill and chance and requires students to draw on their Place value knowledge and mental computational skills with regard to addition.


Set up and share a split screen so that students can see the game board and the dice. Students make a copy of the game board on a piece of paper.

Roll the dice. Players choose whether the number rolled goes in the tens or ones place value column. For example if teacher rolled a 3 it could be 3 or 30.

The aim of the game is to get as close to 100 as possible. If you go over 100 you do not bust as the aim of the game is to get as close to 100 as possible.

After the five rounds the student or teacher who is the closest to 100 is the winner.

Often I would stop and get the students to share their score verbally or through the chat function on WebEx. I also asked before the last round what numbers students wanted to roll next and why.

When I first started playing with the members of my class I played and annotated the scoreboard by inserting my scores.

After the first game I stopped doing this and kept my own score on a piece of paper. The students loved this game and ask to play it again and again.

Greedy Pig

Another classroom favourite that I adapted to play with my students during a WebEx session is the game Greedy Pig.

Within the virtual WebEx classroom it is difficult to know if the student is standing up to indicate that they would like to keep their score and not risk losing it due to rolling a 1. This was modified so that if a student decided not to “risk” it they would switch their camera off.

Students being able to see my game board and the virtual dice added to the student’s engagement.

As the rolls of the dice progressed the tension grew and the numbers that they would soon need to add grew as well.

This was a fun way to talk to the students about probability and build in a sneaky element of Mental Computation without them even knowing.

The Rob V and Michael M professional learning referred to an article written by James Russo “Five principles of educationally rich mathematical games.” I believe that Greedy Pig covers each of these thus making it a rich and educationally valuable maths game to play with students.

James Russo’s “Five principles of Educationally Rich Mathematics Games”