One of the interesting ways you can get your elementary students to work with mental math is to use visual patterns. For example, if you take all the face cards out of a set of playing cards, you’ll have the number cards remaining. Take a couple of these decks and cover up the numbers and the small designation of the suit. What you’ll have left is just the number pattern on the card. You can then use these cards as flash cards to get students to use their mental math muscles.

There are many different ways you can use these. You can begin by just flashing a single ca
rd and having them call out the number. Then they can graduate to giving you the sum or difference very quickly as you flash up two cards and tell them the operation.

After playing around with addition and subtraction, you can have them move on to multiplication and division, which will end up being a fraction representation.

You can also extend this activity into using the cards to represent digits in a number that has place value. For example, give them 3-4 cards and have them arrange them to represent the smallest number possible or the largest number possible.