Despite the vital role math plays in our daily lives and its importance for future career prospects, many students face challenges with the subject, reflected in declining national and international math test scores. Teachers play a crucial role in addressing this issue by constantly seeking effective strategies to help students improve their mathematical abilities. This blog post aims to provide proven strategies for building mathematical strength in students.
1. Promote a Growth Mindset in Math
Moving beyond the constraints of a fixed mindset is crucial for students on their mathematical journey. Phrases like “I’m just not a math person,” can be detrimental, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nurturing a growth mindset, which acknowledges that skills can be cultivated through dedication and hard work, empowers students to view challenges as opportunities for mastery. This perspective fosters resilience and a love for learning, enabling students to reach their full mathematical potential.
2. Meet Students Where They Are
While we often have abundant data indicating where students currently stand in their mathematical understanding, it is essential to delve deeper into the fears and misconceptions they may hold. Many students perceive math as a complex and abstract web of isolated theories, making it appear daunting. As educators, we possess the ability to reshape this perception by demonstrating how these seemingly intricate concepts are interconnected and applicable in everyday scenarios. This approach serves to highlight the relevance of math, transforming it from an alien and intimidating subject to one that feels more accessible.
Recognizing that students often have unique problem-solving approaches that may differ from our prescribed strategies is crucial. Even if their methods are less efficient or diverge from the way we teach a concept, the fact that they arrive at the correct answer and can articulate their reasoning is significant. Is it truly a disadvantage if they didn’t arrive at the solution “our way”? Consider this: embracing their individual approaches might be the key to facilitating their understanding of mathematical concepts.
Traditionally, math instruction has followed a pattern where we present the concept, establish connections to previous content, teach specific strategies, and expect students to grasp it. However, if a student is not ready to adopt the presented strategy, allowing them to develop their own approach and encouraging exploration can be beneficial. Their unique strategies serve as indicators of both their comprehension and areas of difficulty. This information can be utilized to reinforce the skills they already possess or present an opportunity to introduce a different strategy if their understanding is not aligned with the conventional teaching method.
3. Engage Students through Hands On Learning
When it comes to math instruction, it’s crucial to recognize the unique qualities of each student and their distinct learning styles. Instead of relying on a single teaching method, it’s more effective to adopt a versatile approach that incorporates various strategies tailored to the diverse learning preferences in the classroom. Some students may grasp concepts quickly through hands-on activities or problem-solving tasks, while others may benefit more from visual presentations or real-world applications of math. Here are some valuable enhancements for your math classroom:
- Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEAM)
- Real-life applications
Introducing lively activities can transform the learning of fundamental skills from a chore to an enjoyable experience. Consider infusing fun into the equation with dynamic math games, intriguing puzzles, or team challenges. This approach adds a sense of excitement and competition, making students more enthusiastic about participation. Fostering this enjoyable environment not only supports skill acquisition but also helps students develop a positive attitude towards math. Ultimately, it’s not just about building math skills; it’s about shaping a whole new perspective on math!
4. Encourage Regular Practice and Review
Treat math like a sport and emphasize regular practice to enhance performance. Implement a routine of math drills, engaging puzzles, and stimulating challenges. This consistent workout reinforces understanding, allows practical application of concepts, and builds confidence. Regular assessments, such as surprise quizzes, keep students engaged and motivated, showcasing that math can be both challenging and fun.
5. Provide Continuous Feedback and Support
Feedback and encouragement play crucial roles in developing mathematical strength. Beyond instruction, teachers should offer meaningful feedback and consistent support. Recognize successes and highlight areas for improvement to guide students’ learning. Regular check-ins help gauge progress and identify those who may need additional help. This continuous feedback and support system create a supportive learning environment that promotes growth and mastery in mathematics.
By implementing these proven strategies, educators can contribute to strengthening students’ math skills, fostering a positive attitude towards the subject, and empowering them on their mathematical journey. Through a combination of mindset, inclusivity, hands-on learning, regular practice, and ongoing support, we can reshape students’ perspectives on math and help them unlock their full potential.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.