Teaching: Mental maths


There are many ways in which you can help your child at home with mental maths.

Number sequencing is learnt through rhymes which also reinforce learning. Children’s games often involve the use of dice. Encourage your children to do the mental calculations and ask them how they worked out the answer.
Five Little Firemen
Five little firemen standing in a row,                                     
1 2 3 4 5 let’s go.
Jump on the engine with a SHOUT,
As quick as a wink the fire is out.
Four little firemen standing in a row,
1 2 3 4 shhh let’s go.
Jump on the engine with a Shout
As quick as a wink the fire is out.
Mental questions which are learnt through this rhyme
a) Write the number after 3
b) 1, 3, ? ......
c) Write an even number below 5
Read stories to your children, or let them read to you and then discuss any aspects of maths that arise in the stories. These might be time, shape and space or pattern.
Play games such as ludo and snakes and ladders which involve the use of dice. Encourage your children to do the mental calculations and ask them how they worked out the answer.
As children get older teach them chess, backgammon and battleships. All these will help with mathematical concepts.
game      game
Fun with shapesshapes
Children enjoy playing with blocks and shapes. This play reinforces tessellation, the names of shapes and the properties of the shapes.
Go out to the garden and think about these questions
  • What is the shape of your garden?
  • What about any paths? 
  • Look at the bricks on a wall:
o   Can you copy the pattern?
o   Are there any different patterns anywhere?
Mental shape questions
Ask children questions such as: 
  1. Put a ring around a circle or point to the circle.
  2. Which of the shapes has 4 sides?
  3. Draw a shape with 3 sides.
  shape  circle  shape  shape


clockTime can be learnt through games and by using a digital clock.. “When this number is four and these two numbers are zero, that is when we will be going to the park.” It is a good idea to point to the clock throughout the day and let them know what time it is
Talk to your child about time and how long things take.”This programme will last for 30 minutes so lunch will be when the clock says 12 :30. “ The same concept can be used for bedtime, time to go to the park and time when Daddy comes home.
Time questions
  1. What is the next hour after 9.00?
  2. What is the time you go to bed? 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock?
  3. How long is it between 10 am and 10.30 am?

scalesMeasuring and weighing 

Bake a cake with your child and ask them to weigh out the flour, sugar and butter. When it's cooked, they can have fun decorating and eating it!
Children can weigh themselves, birthday present parcels for the post and even the dog!


Children can measure themselves on a height chart and discover for themselves how quickly they grow.
Children love to compare sizes without measuring. This is great as it encourages the development of the concepts of bigger than and smaller than. Encourage children to try to explain why they think one thing is bigger than another; this includes the fact that it may be taller or fatter.
Pace out a square metre and use this to guess the size of your carpet. Encourage children to look at the height of a door. Why is it that height? Are all the doors in the house the same height?
  1. Draw a line 5 centimetres long.
  2. What would the scales read if the babies are weighed together and Sue’s body weight is 7 kilograms, while Kerry’s body weight is 6 kilograms ?
  3. How many grams are in 1kg?


boyChildren take pride if you allow them to pay for their own comic, sweets or ice lolly. Give your child 50p and discuss how much the item they are buying costs. Help them work out the change. Allow them to handle real money and play at shops with your children so that they develop the concept of exchange. Encourage them to talk about the colour, size, shape and value of the coins and discuss this with them.
A journey on the bus gives children the opportunity to pay their own fares. This is good practice as many children have to get the bus to go to secondary school.
If you are travelling by bus:
  1. How long does the journey take? bus
  2. How many people are on the bus?
  3. How much was the bus fare?
  4. What numbers can you see as you go down the road?
Mental Money Questions
  1. If my comic costs 35p what is the change from 50p?
  2. My fare costs 25p and Mummy’s cost 75p. What do both fares cost together?
  3. 6 apples cost £1.20. What does 1 apple cost?


There is symmetry in leaves, flower heads, butterflies and other insects.
leaf      butterflly
Mental questions on symmetry
  1. How many lines of symmetry does a square have?
  2. Which shapes have symmetry? 
Helping Mum
It is fun to help with everyday jobs around the house.
Encourage your child to help by laying the table.
  1. How many forks will you need?
  2. How many spoons do you need?
  3. How many place mats should you put out?
  4. Count the chairs and make sure everyone has a chair to sit on.
  5. How many beakers for the children and how many glasses for the adults? 
Help with the washing
  • Help by matching all the socks.
  • Count all the t-shirts.
  • Put together all the jeans which are blue.
  • Help fold the sheets, towels and pillow cases in half and quarters etc.
  • Fold the tea towels, face clothes and dusters into quarters.
Now try these papers - lots more at  Maths-mental-maths
Mental maths 1
Mental maths for Year 2
Mental maths for Year 3 paper 2
Mental maths paper Year 6 paper 3

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