5 apps for improving mental arithmetic

Tim Miles

Tim is the Editor of the Innovate My School Magazine. Before joining Innovate, he worked for five years in the software industry, occupying every role from tea-making technical support specialist to programmer and project director. He writes about a range of subjects, including education, technology, history and religion.

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The Government has said that calculators will be banned in maths tests for 11-year-olds from 2014. Here are five cool apps for Android and IOS that should help pupils to sharpen their mental arithmetic and learn how to do more maths in their minds.

Math Workout

A no-nonsense app with a plain but clean interface, Math Workout helps pupils practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, indices, decimals and more. Its “Brain Cruncher” mode is good for training the mind to hold numbers in memory, and the “Times Table Master” should be particularly useful to primary pupils who are laerning their tables. Players must complete quite a few rounds on the easier levels to unlock the harder ones: this should ensure that pupils master the basics before moving on to harder questions, though it may irritate more accomplished mental mathematicians.

Links to app: Android, Android (Free version)

Manic Math

Available for Android and IOS, this enjoyable game helps pupils pracitse basic calculations and encourages them to think quickly. It doesn't cover as many types of calculation as some mental arithmetic apps do, but the fun factor should make it popular with pupils. There are paid and free (with advertising) versions for Android, and a paid version (less than £1) for IOS.

Links to app: Android, iPad, iPod touch & iPhone


Watch a video:

Nutty Numbers

With its bright, playful interface, this app is probably most suitable for early-years pupils. It enables them to practise basic calculations such as addition, multiplication, doubling and halving. Questions have multiple choice answers, which may increase pupils' temptation to guess, but the rewards and positive reinforcement should appeal to young children.

Links to app: iPad, iPod touch & iPhone; iPad, iPod touch & iPhone (Free version) 


Watch a video:

Mathemagics - Mental Math Tricks

This app provides brief lessons which teach tricks for performing various mathematical calculations without a calculator - how to multiply larger numbers, for example. Pupils can also use Mathemagics to practice what they have learned. It has a clear, intuitive interface.

Links to app: iPad, iPod touch & iPhone

10! - Arithmetic Puzzle Game

Beneath a rather dated interface, this simple app has some important features. Users have to get a question right before continuing (hints are available) and must be able to use BIDMAS to correctly answer questions on higher difficulty levels. There is a “easy” mode for beginners who are unfamiliar with multiplication and division, but even on this level considerable speed and accuracy are required to get a good grade!

Links to app: Android

For a maths teacher's opinion on the use of calculators and the importance of mental arithmetic, turn to page 31 of our latest online magazine.

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