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Mental calculation: its place in the development of numeracy

Maclellan, Effie (2001) Mental calculation: its place in the development of numeracy. Westminster Studies in Education, 24 (2). pp. 145-154. ISSN 0140-6728

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Abstract

The current concerns about the standards of numeracy in primary schools, as these are manifest in different official reports (HMI, 1997; DfEE, 1998), have given a revised emphasis to mental calculation. While not completely discounting the wider aspects of mathematical achievement, the topics of space and shape, data handling and measurement are being de-emphasised (Brown et al, 2000) and mental calculation is being emphasised, with there being daily opportunities for children to develop efficient and flexible mental methods of calculating (QCA, 1999; Wilson, 1999). However, the term, mental calculation is not clearly defined (Harries and Spooner, 2000) and without conceptual clarity it may be very difficult for us to recognise, let alone understand, what pedagogical practices are needed to support the objective of increased emphasis on mental calculation. What follows is some consideration of what is meant by the term mental calculation and what this meaning implies for practice.