Calculator Use and Mental Math

Mike McGarry
Lesson by Mike McGarry
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
Calculator Use and Mental Math. Before we dive into the individual topics of the ACT Math, we'll discuss some overarching strategies relating to calculation. As you probably know, you can, and are strongly encouraged to, bring your own calculator to use on the ACT math test. So you will have a calculator, but it is a big mistake to reach for it on every math problem.

That's very important to understand. Your brain is actually much more powerful than a calculator and you really have to have faith in that. Many problems on the ACT that could be done with a long calculator calculation can be vastly simplified with a little bit of insight. And, in fact, that's exactly what the test is encouraging you to do.

The ACT Math Test is not simply a test that says do this calculation. Part of what is tested is your Is your knowledge of math, and your ability to discern which calculation is required. Very important. In addition, the ACT is interested in testing your mathematical logic, your number sense, and your ability to discern patterns.

Some ACT problems appear to require long calculation, but when you use your logic, you realize that a very simple, elegant solution is possible. And, of course, the more you see this, the better off you'll be, because you have to get through 60 questions in 60 minutes. It's very important to be comfortable with basic mental math. Practice doing as much math as possible without a calculator.

Force yourself to do mental math everyday, add, subtract, multiply and divide in your head. You have to think of it as a muscle. You have to sort of train that muscle every day, so you'll be in good shape by the time you use it for the test. You can do math every day in your head.

For example, if you're buying a few things, sum the price of the order as you shop. Estimate distances and the time it will take to get there, estimate areas, lengths that sort of thing. Always be thinking of ways that you can do math in your head. The more you can practice it, the more comfortable you'll become with it.

In addition to the basic mental math you have learned in school, we will discuss a few strategies in this module that will help you as well. The more you work, or even play with math in your head, the more you will see patterns and develop number sense. Now number sense is a really tricky thing. Number sense Is that intuition for how numbers work.

The more you work with math, especially in your head, and even play with math. Now I realize that's a strange idea, if you don't like math. But the more you can get curious about math, about the patterns of numbers, the more you will develop a sense of number sense.

Show Transcript

Next Lesson


General Math Strategies