If you were to ask my mother, who is a math genius by the way, if I was good at math growing up, she would have a mixed reaction. She would start off to say that I am not too bad at math because I struggled a lot after about sixth grade (fractions are the devil). But then she would continue to say that I claim to be horrible at math even though I am great at teaching someone to do math. She always pushed me to be a math teacher because I was that kid who struggled and had to overcome a lot of insecurities. I always got such a rush when I was helping her students during tutorials because I could see that "light-bulb" moment when they finally figured out how to compare fractions (again with the fractions). Maybe that's why I eventually became a teacher.
It's so important for your students to think of themselves as "Math Ninjas." I am in my mid thirties (man I feel old) and I still have insecurities about math. Think about how your students are feeling right now sitting in your class. Do they feel like they are "bad at math" or are they ninjas?
Here are a few suggestions I have found over the past few years:
1. Make it something they can relate to- How can your students see this math problem or concept in the real-world? Do they bake with their parents? Do they buy clothing out of the clearance section? I know I do! I always try and explain how careers they might have when they grow up could use a specific concept.
2. Break it up- Maybe just showing them a portion of the problem instead of everything at once will help them not freak out.
3. Add a manipulative- The best thing my mom did for me was breaking out a bag of fun-size Skittles. Who would have thought a yummy candy would help me remember fractions (Yep, fractions again).
4. Ask your students for help- Even just by asking your struggling students to help you because you don't understand something can change their whole outlook on something. Being the "teacher" is a great strategy because it makes your students have to think about how to solve a problem. Plus, you as a teacher get to see where they are having difficulty without them even knowing it!
5. Make goals- Everything is all about goal setting right now. It's like the new trend. However, If I have a goal to do something better, I usually try and accomplish it. The say we shouldn't reward students for reaching goals because they aren't trying to get better at the subject, they are just trying to get a reward. I'm sorry, but I think that is not true for everyone. I always reward myself with a manicure and pedicure when I do something good and I'm not doing it just for the reward...well...maybe...
I hope some of these suggestions will help you plan some stellar math lessons. I also hope you think of me and those stupid fractions when you plan as well. How can I teach those Laura's out there that would rather have her teeth pulled than do word problems?
If you have any other suggestions that could help out math teachers, just drop them below in the comments!!
Laura Gokey is the owner of The Learning Tree and is working towards her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Regent University. She currently lives in Livingston, TX with her husband of fourteen years and her two children.