Math Methods 101

As a teacher in real world elementary classrooms and as a professor of math methods courses for education majors at the university level, I would like to share with you in the next 7 minutes what I have entitled – “Mathematics Methods 101”; otherwise known as “Everything you wanted to know about teaching mathematics successfully, but were afraid to ask.” This information is pertinent whether you are a multi-grade or single grade educator. Whether you are a veteran teacher or a rookie teacher, I believe that you can benefit from this brief math refresher! I would hasten to say that several of these strategies are not peculiar to math alone but could easily translate to other areas of the elementary curriculum.

I want to share with you a dozen different teaching principles to integrate into your math instruction in order to improve overall math performance. While I will be listing these strategies numerically from 1 thru 12 they are not listed in a hierarchical order. I believe that each has significance and many interrelate with each other.

The first thing I will share is an axiom that I have quoted many times. I believe it to be as true today as when I first heard it many years ago and it comes from a student’s perspective – “ I do not care what you know until I know that you care!” You must genuinely care for each of your students. Another way to express this quality, is that you must have a passion for teaching. If this is lacking, then you should start packing your bags!

You must like math yourself. If you do not like math find a way to sell it enthusiastically to your students. This could be tough for some of you, but if you do not come through with this quality it will bleed through into your teaching and your students will pick up on the negativity. Absolutely, do not tell students that you do not like math. You have a significant amount of influence in your classroom so you must develop enthusiasm for math.

Is to to make math practical for your students. Give them a reason to know math. Math is a vital part of each of our lives! You should share evidence as to why math is a valuable aspect of life. Also, make it germane for their environment today! Do not say, “You will need this when you get to junior high or academy or as an adult, but tie it to why they need it today!”

Learning is a social process. As a social activity you need to make it so by the way you group students. Small flexible groups working together, pair/shares, etc. all increase the synergy for your math lessons.

Math discourse is very valuable. This is a dialogue not a lecture. Talk it over with your students. Let students explain the process and walk you or their peers through the steps they are performing and why they are doing so. Remember we want our students to truly understand math concepts and procedures. This is a deeper knowledge of math concepts than rote memorization. We want our students to understand the “why” behind math content.

Is to make math fun! I do not believe that learning needs to be painful. On the contrary I am a large believer in EDUTAINMENT! If students are having fun then their motivation will increase. If motivation is augmented, then their interest is increased. This in turn will yield an increase in retention. If you can integrate a game, a video, animation, etc. make math fun!

Integrate technology into the math program. We live in a technological world and it is only increasing. Look at the things today that you now do on your phone. Both the Go Math! & the Big Ideas Math textbook series have excellent computer resources which can be a major asset to you and your students. 

Math is an abstract discipline, and the best way to assist students in understanding this abstract material is by incorporating and building concrete models. This is best accomplished with manipulatives. Students need to be actively engaged in the content using hands on projects can facilitate this need. 

Math has a language of its own. Many terms need to be defined. You should use the appropriate math language during instruction, but be sure that you have introduced the needed specialized vocabulary. If the students do not know the language of math, then they will likely be frustrated and not successful in math.

 Math like no other content is sequential. Math builds on itself. So if there are gaps or deficits, then failure is imminent. One size does not fit all – it definitely needs to be individualized. Jesus was the Master teacher, and the method He used was to meet each individual at his level and lift them up from there. Talk about the value of differentiated instruction. This is it! You must know math content yourself. It is impossible to teach or demonstrate what you do not know. You need to be confident and comfortable with the concepts that you are teaching! 

Use positive affirmation! All humans appreciate positive feedback and encouragement. Also, nothing succeeds like success! So use baby steps or small incremental steps so that students may experience success not failure. I started out with a dozen, but I want to give you a baker’s dozen. In case you need that defined- a baker’s dozen is 13. 

The last strategy I want to share with you is PRAYER! My favorite scripture is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” Seriously, prayer is powerful, and it can assist you with any student and in any situation. 

Thanks for listening and may the Lord bless you and your students this school year.