Not every child enjoys working with and learning numbers. There are some of us that are innately talented with adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, however, there are children who really struggle with the mental skill of such functions. Teachers have an obligation as part of their lessons to make learning fun and engaging. By doing this it increases a child’s understanding and removes the stigma some subjects, especially mathematics, have for some individuals.
There are a number of ways to make learning maths easier for kids.
People learn best when they can use a new concept in an already familiar context. Teachers should use recognisable examples to frame questions so that children have a point of reference for the mathematical concept. By using scenarios that happen frequently in a child’s life there will be less chance that they will become overwhelmed with learning something new and it will also increase their ability to consolidate the learning episode and skills associated with it.
- Cooking – Following a recipe requires an understanding of how different measures are calculated, weighed or collected.
- Eating – Portioning of food and even distribution is a key part of this activity.
- Designing – Building blocks, Lego, etc. require calculating of how different shapes and designs will use what numbers, sizes and shapes of blocks.
- Time – Telling the time, as well as counting to determine start and end times of activities.
- Money – Buying, spending, change, saving – it’s all relative.
Children have a hard time looking beyond the concrete. It is difficult to not only imagine a hypothetical situation, but applying a new mathematical concept to it as well could cause an overwhelmed child to simply give up. Teachers should focus on centering math questions related to situations that children should and would have encountered before. This type of approach is about drawing a student into the skill with engaging topics and familiar contexts.
This really offers a plethora of choices, so consider the age group of your students and choose what would be most suitable for their interests.
- Sport – Athletics offers the ability to look at time and distance for anything from adding, predicting to statistics. General team sports could be used to teach statistics, difference, patterns and geometry. Goal-based sports offer the ability to look at probability.
- Food – Discussing food offers the chance to practice geometry, fractions, decimals, equations, money, proportional reasoning, graphs – the list is endless.
- Dancing – Geometry to statistics to Pythagorean’s for square dancing – the sky’s the limit.
- Design – Colour inversion, geometry and symmetry.
- Games – Looking at lots of types of games whether they are board, online or video games, students have the ability to reflect on a lot of different components. Examples include statistics of leader boards, percentages of winning, probability in dice rolling and basic arithmetic in score differences.
- Technology – There is no denying that technology has made its way firmly into the classroom. Teachers have to embrace it in a variety of ways to ensure that students not only maintain real-world validity of their studies, but develop their skills of working with technology too. There are many avenues for teachers here and employing a variety of examples will be beneficial for everyone involved.
- Smart Boards – These are interactive whiteboards that many classrooms have that enable teachers to present information in a new way. For example some websites offer the ability for students to draw in numbers or shapes directly onto the board, or move and manipulate objects on the screen or even simulate a video game experience.
- SplatSquare – an interactive 100 grid that enables students to practice counting to 100.
- Caterpillar ordering – a game with multiple functions that allows students to sequence numbers in a variety of ways. It is also tablet friendly.
- Exploring order of operations – an interactive resource that aids students in learning about the hierarchy of mathematical functions. It has teaching strategies, solutions and an end of lesson game to consolidate skills.
There is no denying just how influential and appealing the rise of smart technology has been. It is an extremely engaging tool that can get even the most unwilling involved. Additionally, there are so many apps available, both free and paid, that focus on building math skills in new and exciting ways.
- Targeting Maths – a range of apps designed to help students of varying age levels work on their most essential math skills. From Kindergarten to Year 6, students can use the app to practice, compete with one another, keep track of their progress and consolidate their skills with fun games.
- Concentration – Kids can use this app solo or compete against others, testing their skills of matching whole numbers, shapes or fractions, as well as harder concepts such as multiplication facts.
Online there is a wealth of information and resources to turn mathematics from the everyday to the exciting. Teachers and parents can have these useful avenues right at their fingertips to encourage students to log-on and get going very quickly. Some of the best website examples give students their own account so they can choose their own questions, monitor their results, compete against others and the clock and generally learn and practice mathematical concepts in engaging ways.
Along the same lines of using everyday problems and contexts, students learn new concepts best when they can use tactile materials and engage their kinaesthetic and visual learning skills. There has always been a number of tools teachers have used to do this. Now that creativity is the key to learning in many classrooms, why not have some fun and use your imagination.
- MAB blocks are a traditional type of mathematical tool, but are still as useful today as they were many years ago.
- Straws are easy to get and offer a colourful and cheap option.
- Food is also a great option and a wonderful reward (once the learning is done). It could be sweets, biscuits, pizza, nuts or cereal like fruit loops.
- Colourful discs are hard plastic toys, bought in bags of around a hundred, from many types of stores including news agencies and are a great way for kids to get hands on with their multiplication sums.
- Matchsticks are easy, useful and readily available.
- Dice can make learning much more interactive.
- Flash cards are again easily picked up from stores or online and offer a great visual reminder or cue to kids learning new skills. They can also be used to play games like concentration and bingo.