During SATs week, children often prefer the relatively straightforward nature of Mathematics Paper 1 to the more cognitively demanding papers 2 and 3. On Paper 1, there are no abstract contexts or character names to get their heads around, and no need to think about which operation to perform. It is basically a no-nonsense test of the skills children have spent years diligently practising and developing. So what’s the catch?
In one word: **time**.
Children have only 30 minutes to complete 36 questions worth a total of 40 marks. This works out at 45 seconds for each mark on average. This may seem like a reasonable amount of time, yet many children do not finish all of the questions on the arithmetic paper.
### Efficient methods are essential
What is the secret to being able to score high marks on Paper 1?
Choosing the most efficient strategy every time.
On the 2019 arithmetic paper, a child who is confident in mental calculations did not have to use a formal written method for any of the first 22 questions.
Question 1 of this paper is a great example of where the child needs to be able to identify that this can be done mentally within a matter of seconds.
![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/70658a18-bf26-444d-b4ad-221ba844ed2d/59148f94-d275-4393-85c6-08ff43f11908SATsbloggrab1.JPG "")
Making the mistake of setting out this question using a formal written method takes up valuable minutes, when a place value additive strategy is much more efficient.
If they choose the most efficient methods, children have to perform approximately 110 individual mental calculations in the entire paper. Choosing a written method each time more than doubles the number of individual calculations a child has to do, so they are much less likely to finish the test.
Being able to quickly identify which questions should be answered mentally is vital. Learning by Questions provides children with these opportunities as part of [National Curriculum Test style Question Sets](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/assessment?keywords=sats&hide=true/), guiding children to efficient methods in the instant feedback.
### Mental or written?
Children may be extremely confident in following the rigid algorithms they have been practising for many years. Indeed, many children may be so efficient in written methods that they complete them in a similar time to a mental method. So the choice is ultimately dependent on the individual child.
One interesting example from the 2019 paper is question 19:
![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/70658a18-bf26-444d-b4ad-221ba844ed2d/7876116b-5dd0-4003-80c2-b9786179496bSATsblogscreengrab2.JPG "")
Using a mental method, the answer can be arrived at in 2 simple steps:
7 - 2 = 5, 5 - 0.25 = 4.75
Using a written method, this question becomes much more complex:
![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/70658a18-bf26-444d-b4ad-221ba844ed2d/c4c55c8e-3f77-47ee-840a-e7d3af0f3e9fSATsBlogImage1.jpg "SATs")
There are now many more potential errors and the number of steps required has increased to seven.
Again, being confident in using mental strategies saves time and - just as importantly - minimises chances for common errors when exchanging. Interestingly, a similar question on LbQ’s version of Paper 1 was one of the questions answered incorrectly most often last year: 33% of all responses to the question 10 - 7.3 were incorrect.
Based on this analysis, Learning by Questions are currently developing a Question Set that will help children to become experts at this kind of question - it will be available in the next few weeks.
### Number fact fluency
Virtually all questions on the 2019 paper require the use of basic number facts. Many questions include a mixture of operations. Children need to be able to instantly recall all addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.
Of course, it isn’t just paper 1 where children need to be able to use these key facts instantly. Quick recall and use of all number facts are required in the majority of questions across all three papers if children are to achieve well and complete each paper.
The talented specialists at LbQ have developed many recall-based Question Sets designed to help children become - and stay - fluent in these key facts. All these sets include constructive feedback for the most likely mistakes and misconceptions.
### Key mental strategies to develop
The curriculum does state that mental calculation should be taught: however, the exact methods used are not stipulated.
Learning by Questions have developed mastery and practice sets covering a range of mental strategies:
* [partitioning](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/multiplication-and-division?years=4,5,6&keywords=practise%20partitioning&hide=true/)
* [compensation](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/addition-and-subtraction?years=4,5,6&keywords=practise%20compensation&hide=true//)
* [near-doubles](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/addition-and-subtraction?years=4,5,6&keywords=practise%20near-doubles&hide=true/)
* [number bonds](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/addition-and-subtraction?years=4,5,6&keywords=practise%20number%20bonds&hide=true/)
* [related facts](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/multiplication-and-division?years=4,5,6&keywords=practise%20known%20facts&hide=true/)
These sets typically feature image support in Level 1 to model the strategy, before the children attempt to use the strategy independently in Level 2.
![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/70658a18-bf26-444d-b4ad-221ba844ed2d/5e1f2ad9-54d6-4530-8334-91eaa6decfbdSATsblogscreengrab3.JPG "")
LbQ have created SATs content that really helps your children improve their understanding of mental strategies (and ultimately improve their test scores). You can access our SATs practice papers [here](https://www.lbq.org/search/mathematics/assessment?keywords=sats/&hide=true/), or click [here](https://www.lbq.org/TryLbQ/) for your free 60-day trial.