Tes Maths ROTW: Quick mental maths puzzles

Heather Charles
25th June 2018

Challenge pupils' mental arithmetic skills with these maths puzzles, from markmassey88

What is it?

Not everybody thinks that it is important that students can do mental maths quickly, and especially not under time pressure. Indeed, done the wrong way, such pressure may induce the kind of maths anxiety that can be so debilitating for students of all ages and ability levels.

Whatever your viewpoint, hopefully you will find this resource of use. It consists of 46 maths puzzles, each of which requires several mathematical operations to be carried out from the starting number to reach the final destination. Timers of 30, 45 and 60 seconds are provided on each slide, but these do not need to be used.

How can it be used?

The obvious way to use this resource is as a starter activity. Several mathematical operations are covered in each puzzle, including the basics, but also encompassing percentages, fractions of an amount and square rooting.

The biggest dilemma for me is what to do with the time aspect. Some classes, and in particularly some students, thrive on it. But for others it can be off-putting. And yet, I do believe there is the need to build up such fluency in carrying out these calculations.

What I have found myself doing most often is starting the 60-second countdown timer, asking students to write down the answer in the back of their books along with the time that was left on the clock when they did it. They keep this time to themselves, which allows them to build up a personal record. But I emphasise the need for accuracy. It is all well and good being fast, but if you are fast and wrong then that is no good to anyone. Accuracy beats speed every day.


Craig Barton was speaking to Heather Charles. He is a secondary maths teacher in the north of England.


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