Most parents and tutors know problem-solving plays a large part in preparing pupils for their 11+ maths exams but Mental Maths is somewhat overlooked and sometimes undervalued in 11+ prep.

Though a huge part of 11+ Maths is problem-solving one of the ways you can prepare your child to ace 11+ Maths is by preparing them to quickly and effectively answer questions mentally. When a child can quickly process maths mentally, it helps them not only to solve arithmetic questions that appear, typically, at the beginning of 11+ maths exams, quickly but also in the later stages of of the 11+ maths exams, where problem-solving can be time-consuming, your child will have an advantage if their mental maths skills are advanced. How? Why? Well…

- The fact that a student who is efficient with mental maths calculations saves time with most questions, leaves them with extra time, compared to the average student, to tackle the more challenging problem-solving questions that appear at the end of the paper.
- When going through problem-solving questions, you will notice that there are multiple steps in most higher-end 11+ maths papers. When there are multiple steps, it’s always advantageous to have more time to process the sequence but not only that, if a student can also complete the steps quicker using mental maths then this would give them further time for questions they are struggling with.

Of course, just because a child is brilliant at mental maths, it doesn’t mean they will get all the questions right. Mental maths combined with excellent problem-solving skills and a myriad of heuristics would be the best combinations for any child to tackle whatever comes up.

### 11+ Mental Maths Course

## Overusing Mental Maths in 11+ Prep

We strongly recommend working with your child on their mental maths skills but when mental maths is overused it can have the opposite desired effect. How?

We’ve seen that some students who overuse mental maths, especially when going through past papers, become extremely slow and very rarely complete more than 70% of a paper. Why?

The energy a child needs to compute every aspect of a question, small and large calculations, and multi-step calculations, which then require recollecting partial answers, would mean that a child will eventually become mentally fatigued by repeating mental maths calculations if that was the only method they relied on.

## Avoiding Mental Fatigue in 11+ Exams

The best way to avoid mental fatigue due to overuse of mental maths strategies is to make sure you train your child to use both mental and written methods. When using mental maths always remind your child to make sure they write down answers to key calculations and also, where there is a lot of information in a question, label each answer.

So as an example, one part of a multi-step word problem may need you to work out the number of students in a year group. If each class has 30 children and there are 6 classes in the year group then we know that 6 x 30 = 180 children. Now in a sea of working out on a paper, this 180 may be an important figure we will need to use to complete the question, so it’s important just to add a label – 180 children in year 7 for example. This allows your child to quickly pick out this information when needed for further calculations to then be able to successfully solve the problem.

How would it have been without writing down the answer to the calculation 6 x 30? Well some children try to keep that answer in their head and try to recall this when needed. This can work well if the question is short with a 1 or 2 steps but where you have a multi-step problem with 3 to 5 steps, children often forget the answer or the context of the answer or worse recall something that isn’t 180 children in the year group.

## Mental Maths is Needed for 11+ Prep but…

Mental maths is an important part of successfully preparing our children for 11+ Maths exams. We aim to prepare our children to have excellent mental maths skills but we also have to remind them to write key information down so as not to over-burden their minds which will result in mental fatigue at the wrong time.