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EIM Math Teaching Tips

For some reason our society has made it acceptable to “not be a math person” and leave it at that.  EIM wants to abolish that type of thinking so we don’t raise another generation of children that buys into that math phobia.  We believe that change begins with the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that we as teachers and parents bring to the table when we talk about math with children.  As teachers, we can begin by providing a positive and engaging math environment in the classroom so students feel comfortable exploring new math concepts and skills. Here are some other small changes you can make in your teaching to maximize a math culture.

  • Frequently tell students that a wrong answer is OK because it tells you three good things about them: 1- they’re paying attention; 2- they’re thinking; and 3- they’re trying.  A teacher can’t ask for anything more than that.
  • Don’t automatically validate a student’s answer. Instead, ask the class to do so: “Raise your hand if you agree.” If the answer was wrong, ask “Who has a different answer?”Allow more wait time than usual.
  • Allow more wait time than usual. After asking a question, say “I will wait for 8 of you to raise your hand“.  Learning stops when the answer is given so let students know you will give them plenty of time to think and not avoid solving the problem for themselves.
  • Encourage students to work together and help one another with their math.  Groups of three work best.  A lot of good teaching and learning take place when students work cooperatively.
  • Participation in most classroom learning games should be voluntary. “Whenever we played Around the World or Buzz or many other games, my students knew they didn’t have to play but they did have to pay attention.  At the beginning of the year there was a high percentage of students (particularly my Asian and Latina girls) who chose not to play.  Within a couple of months, though, virtually all of them were playing.  This reduces anxiety, makes for a “safer” environment for a lot of kids.  It also empowers them by letting them make decisions.”  - MIR Dave Gardner
  • Instead of saying “Raise your hand if you know the answer,”  change it to “Raise your hand when you know the answer.” That one word communicates a lot to students!
  • The most important questions you can ask a student:Why do you think so?“, “Tell me more about how you solved that.” or ”How did you get that answer?
  • Provide time for students to reflect on their understanding before the lesson is over by allowing students to record work and thoughts in a notebook.
  • Refer to students as mathematicians. Help them envision themselves as math scholars and maybe spark the idea that they might one day have a career in math.
  • Focus on relevant math vocabulary and use it throughout the course of the day.