3 Ways to Build Mental Math Skills Before ACT, SAT

3 Ways to Build Mental Math Skills Before ACT, SAT

MANY STUDENTS HAVE become dependent on calculators, because these devices are used ubiquitously in daily life. However, the ability to complete math problems without the aid of a calculator can help test-takers avoid certain errors and work more quickly on the ACT and SAT.

In addition, the SAT specifically includes a calculator-free math section. It is for these reasons that students who wish to excel on these assessments must learn to do certain math without any help. Here are three ways that you can develop this competency.

Start by abandoning your calculator for the simplest math tasks, and then increase the difficulty. Relying on your calculator for every computation can be a difficult habit to break. In many instances, calculators have become students’ default solution to math operations, whether the operations at hand are complex or not. To reverse this unproductive habit, start small.

Rather than reaching for your calculator, opt to perform the simplest arithmetic in your head. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing small numbers should not require the use of a calculator. However, if you find yourself struggling to do basic math mentally, first consider revisiting your times tables.

Next, pledge to perform all calculations mentally for numbers up to twelve. Once you feel more comfortable with doing simple math in your head, increase the threshold to fifteen. Then, incorporate square numbers, fractions, and other functions as you see appropriate.

Relearning basic math concepts, such as multiplication tables, can save you precious time on the ACT and SAT. Refreshing yourself on the basics can also remind you of relationships between numbers, which then makes doing more complicated math easier.

Another benefit of strengthening your math foundation is the avoidance of careless mistakes. By depending on your own knowledge rather than on a calculator, you become less susceptible to keystroke errors that could cause you to lose points. Students who blindly rely on calculators sometimes do not realize when they press a wrong button and therefore arrive at an incorrect answer.

Abstain from calculator usage on multiple practice tests. Practice tests are an undeniably helpful resource for students who are preparing for the ACT and SAT. There is therefore no better way to put your calculator-free skills to use than on ACT or SAT practice tests.

Once you have gotten accustomed to doing calculator-free arithmetic, it is time to apply this same habit to a full-length practice test. Be aware that you will probably feel awkward the first time you take a practice test without your calculator. You may find yourself wanting to revert to old habits several times throughout the math sections. Do not worry; this reaction is completely normal.

Excessive calculator usage is a stubborn habit to break, so students must train themselves to work without one on several different practice tests. Repetition is a key factor in the process of replacing an old habit with a new one. Your second practice test without a calculator may be uncomfortable too, but by the third and fourth practice tests, you should feel more at ease.

Complete day-to-day math tasks mentally. Everyday life provides us with many situations that we could utilize to sharpen our math skills. Consider, for example, shopping. Any time you make a purchase, you can use arithmetic to arrive at your total before you even reach the check-out counter. Moreover, you can put percentages into practice by calculating sales tax in your head, or the amount you save by presenting coupons.

You also have the opportunity to strengthen your math skills as you eat. Practice more with percentages by mentally calculating the tip amount at restaurants. If you eat at home, look at the nutrition facts on food packages. Try calculating the percent daily value of the nutrients you get from whatever serving size you consume. Whether you dine in or out, there is an occasion to apply math to your everyday routine.

Reducing your reliance on calculators is likely to be an uncomfortable experience at first. But if you forego a calculator for the easiest math tasks and increase the difficulty with time, you will become more comfortable and confident in your math skills. Then do the same with practice tests and real-life math tasks, and you will be surprised by the results.