Education Technology

Mental Arithmetic

Activity Overview

The popular TV show "Letters and Numbers" screened on SBS between 2010 and 2012. The Numbers aspect of the show required contestants to use mental arithmetic to generate an equation equal a target number given 6 random numbers consisting of a mix of small and large numbers. Since the show aired, many teachers and their students have played this or similar games. This activity takes the basic game and extends it into a calculator program and an entire investigation sure to build students' arithmetic skills, estimation, problem solving and much more.


There are three main objectives in this activity, they are to improve students': 

  • Programming skills (STEM)
  • Mental arithmetic skills
  • Ability to design and execute a mathematical investigation


Mathematics Coding
  • Order of operations
  • Approximate
  • Estimate
  • Random Sample
  • Request
  • Wait
  • RandSamp
  • Dispat

About the Lesson

Watch a Lily Serna in action

This activity goes beyond basic programming. Once the students have finished writing a program to simulate the Numbers game, they consider questions such as: "How many points is an extra number worth?" or "How many points is extra time worth or other mathematical operations such as factorial, square-root or square?" Students conduct an investigation into such points, in the meantime, they are constantly building their mental arithmetic skills!