Most math classes across the country struggle with students’ apathy and fear. Is it that students are not smart enough? Do you have math hating students in your class? If these sound familiar situations, read on…..
Math is tough and not every student can learn math. Yes, that’s the most common concern shared by most K-12 math teachers across the country. So what do they try to do to handle it – Give a list of formulas and more worksheets to practice, sometimes teach some tricks. Unfortunately that is the genesis of students’ struggle with math.
Let us look at some practical ways educators across the world have tried to manage this problem with positive results. A lot of what is mentioned here is contributed by a group of K-12 math teachers from Finland, a country who has been scoring high in PISA scores for a few years.
- Fear is real, Confront it – The biggest math anxiety of students come from the fact that they believe they are not math person. In our society, where math excellence is taken as a proxy for being intelligent, not being a math person means “I’m stupid”. That’s where the problem starts. As a teacher, you need to ensure that no student believes that he can’t do math but believes that “I’m learning”.
- Mistakes be appreciated – Math is always believed to be a set of problems which have a right answer. As a result, the right answers are appreciated and there is no scope for making a mistake in the classroom. Unlike languages or social sciences, math doesn’t allow a student to be midway of right and wrong, and therefore, teachers demand a right answer all the time. But, can you change it and let students try and make mistakes and struggle on their way to get the right answer. In a classroom, where students are allowed to make mistakes while trying to find answers on their own the learning in foundation math was much better than the classrooms which only celebrated the right answers.
- Give them time – Continuing from above points, it is important that all the students in the class are given more time to solve problems. Don’t rush through it as then there will be a set of 10% of class which will keep giving answers and others will feel they are dimwits. A simple trick is to not allow students to raise hand or make any other gesture or noise as they solve a problem. A 2008 experiment in a math classroom showed that in a classroom, if some students raise hands to answer quickly, others get into a self-destructive thought, “math is tough for me”.
- Don’t give easy problems – A number of math teachers have tried to give easy problems to help students fight the Fear of Failure. However, it has been found to be counter productive. When you give students tough problems and allow them time, students explore wrong solutions before they arrive at the correct solutions, which deepens their understanding of the right methods.
- Generate genuine interest – Math is so much around us that if you can draft these into your math teaching, a genuine interest of students in the process can be aroused. Sometimes we just need to tap a bit into student’s surroundings to find simple math examples that will make a concept less intimidating. For example, when introducing ratios, if you could talk about a daily process whereby, a mother, uses this concept while cooking for different number of people every day. With such examples, the concept looks simple and student is genuinely involved, making learning stronger.
- Growth mindset – Avoid using negative terms in your classroom when it comes to math learning. Don’t bring stereotypes to the classroom, as they are always wrong. Girls are worse than boys in math learning, good math grades result in better career choices are stereotypes and should be avoided in the classroom.
Teaching expert group at TutMe is happy to support you for better learning outcomes. If you have any question related to classroom, reach out
These are some of the tips for teaching math better. However, every classroom evolves in is own unique way and therefore, these should be used as indicative principles. TutMe makes available a number of digital tools in its application for teachers to use for effective math teaching. You can use these to make your class more fun and productive.
TutMe is a complete school software solution, which provides both administrative and academic tools for efficient outcomes. You cam login at www.tutme.in for more details.