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Algoma District School Board students solve math equations without pencil, paper or calculators

PIZZA_PI.jpg.resize.710x399.jpgMental math is being taught in ADSB schools and it is a way of completing calculations in your head without the use of pencil and paper or a calculator.  It is often used for quick estimations and calculations, and it’s the math we’re most likely to use in the real world (e.g. shopping for the best buy, following a recipe, calculating tax and tips, doing home renovations, or even knowing whether you received the correct change at the check-out).

Teaching mental math strategies helps us move our students:                ​    Away from relying on the teacher or the text book to show them “the right way” and towards beginning to develop their own mental reasoning strategies.                                                         Away from being intimidated by math and towards being confident in their abilities to try out various strategies and use math in their daily lives.        

kids-and-money.jpgMental math supports students in developing number sense and mastering basic facts.  It builds accuracy, efficiency and flexibility with numbers.  For example, to solve 999 + 999, students may come up with a variety of methods, but may conclude that adding 1000 + 1000 and then subtracting 2, might be the most efficient strategy.  Solving questions mentally helps students to focus on the relationships between numbers and the effect of number operations, as opposed to simply memorizing rules.

In fact, many resources we use in our schools tell us that when mathematics instruction focuses only on memorization and speed, students may develop anxiety towards math and lose confidence in themselves as mathematicians. 

ADSB Program Team members Kris Oliverio (Intermediate Math and Literacy) and Stacey Verbonac (K-12 Numeracy) shared some of the ways that mental math is taught in the classroom. One way is to have students participate in “Number Talks”, where they are asked to describe aloud how they thought about the numbers in a computation.  This gives the teacher an opportunity to notice and name the strategy that the student is using.  When students engage in this kind of activity, they can hear other students’ methods, and they are able to practice oral reasoning skills by explaining their thinking.  Teachers help to make students’ thinking visible by recording their strategies for everyone to see. 

Mental math is emphasized in our mathematics curriculum expectations and in many of the Ministry Mental Math Image.jpg
support documents and instructional resources that are in our schools.  As a result, we’ve recognized its importance by building it into our Board math plan for this year. At recent professional learning sessions for elementary and secondary teachers of mathematics, teachers engaged in discussions and activities related to developing mental math skills. 

Kris and Stacey shared a mental math task that some ADSB teachers were asked to do and they asked Trustees to try it themselves first and then share how they solved it with the person sitting beside them.  Following the exercise, they reiterated that, when we share and discuss strategies like these in our classrooms, students can clarify their own thinking, they can consider and test other strategies to see if they’re logical, they can investigate and apply mathematical relationships, and they can begin to build a repertoire of efficient strategies for solving problems.