9 Mental Math Games and Tricks for Students and Teachers

Mental math enables students to grasp the fundamental concepts in math. It gives them confidence and freedom to do math without the help of paper, pencil, or manipulatives. After learning mental math techniques and tricks, students can do calculations very quickly.

In the initial stages, when students learn math, they need math manipulatives (like plastic counters or beans) to comprehend mathematical concepts. After learning the fundamentals, they can start doing mental math.


Here are some games that are perfect for elementary school students. They can make mental math fun for them.

1. Baseball Math

You can divide them equally and form two teams. Then make a baseball diamond shape by arranging the desks in that form or draw it on the board. Say a sum for the 1st batter. The pupil should advance one base for every number sentence they give that is equal to that sum. Switch between the teams after every 3-4 batters so that everyone gets a chance to participate in the game.

2. Number of the Day

Every day you can write any number on the classroom board. Ask the pupils to provide math facts equal to that number. For instance, if you write the number 8, children may say 5 + 3, 4 + 4, 10 – 2, 6 + 2, or 18 – 10. You can encourage students of a higher age-group to give suggestions for division, multiplication, subtraction, and addition, as well.

3. Stand Up/Sit Down

Before giving the children mental math problems, ask them to stand or sit if the answer is more than or less than a particular number, respectively. For instance, they should stand if the solution is more than 20 and sit if it is less than that. Then say 25 – 5. You can call out some more math facts related to the same selected number or choose another number every time.

4. Groups

Allow the students in class K-2 to be active and move about while practicing counting skills and mental math with this game. You can tell them to form groups of 10 – 5 (students will form groups of 5 each), or 6 + 2 (they will form groups of 8 each), or more challenging math facts like 25 – 17 (they should form groups of 8 each).

5. Find the Numbers

You can write five numbers on your classroom board, for example, 13, 10, 6, 5, 2. Then make some statements and ask the students to find numbers matching with them.

For instance:

If you add these two numbers, you get 16 (10 + 6)

If you subtract these two numbers, you get 3 (13 – 10)

If you add these numbers, the total is 13 (2 + 5 + 6)

You can change the numbers on the board and make new statements to continue the game if needed.


These mental math tricks can be helpful for the students.

1. Doubles

After students learn to add double numbers such as 2 + 2, 6 + 6, 8 + 8, they can use that for adding numbers that are similar to them quickly. For example, if they have to add 6 + 7, they can use their knowledge that 6 + 6 is 12 and add 1 to it to arrive at the answer, which is 13.

3. Compensation

The students can round up the numbers to calculate more easily. For example, to add 29 + 52, they can consider 29 as 30. So 30 + 52 = 82. They can subtract that extra 1 number and get the correct answer that is 81.

Similarly, students can use round numbers while doing subtractions. In the end, they can add the extra 1 number to get the answer.

4. Decomposition

It involves breaking down the numbers into tens and ones. For instance:

23 + 12 = (20 + 3) + (10 + 2) = (20 + 10) + (3 + 2).

So they can calculate 20 + 10 = 30 and 3 + 2 = 5, and get the answer 35.

4. Adding Up

This technique is useful for subtraction. If they have to subtract 36 from 87. First, they will add 4 to 36 and make it 40. Then they will count the tens and reach 80. By now, they will know that the difference between the two numbers is 44. They can add the remaining 7 to 44 and get the answer 51.

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