5 Essential Strategies in Teaching Math

These 5 essential strategies in teaching mathematics can make this your classes’ best math year ever.

Raise the bar for all

It can be a challenge to overcome the socially acceptable thought I was never good at math, says Sarah Bax, a math teacher at Hardy Middle School in Washington, D.C. Rather than being born with or without math talent, kids need to hear from teachers that anyone who works hard can succeed. “It’s about helping kids have a growth mindset,” says Bax. “Practice and persistence make you good at math.” Tell students about the power and importance of math with enthusiasm and high expectations.

Don’t wait—act now!

Look ahead to the specific concepts students are expected to master for annual end-of-year tests and pace instruction accordingly. “You don’t want to be caught off guard come March thinking that students need to know ‘x’ for the tests the next month,” says Skip Fennell, project director of Elementary Mathematics Specialists and Teacher Leaders Project and professor emeritus at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Know the specific standards and back map your teaching from the fall so students are ready.

Create a testing pathway.

Use formative assessments to ensure that students are understanding the concepts. What you learn can guide your instruction and determine next steps, says Fennell. Testing is not something separate from your instruction. It should be integrated into your planning. Instead of a quick exit question or card, give a five-minute quiz to confirm students have mastered the math skill covered in the day’s lesson.

Personalize and offer choice.

At Hardy Middle School, students use the First in Math online program. “Kids can individualize it for themselves because there is a great deal of choice,” says Bax. Students can select from different games that interest them—some are timed, others are not—learning to master foundational math standards in the process.

Encourage math talk.

Engage students in conversations about their work and have them describe why they solved a problem in a certain way. “My goal is to get information about what students are thinking and use that to guide my instruction, as opposed to just telling them information and asking them to parrot things back,” says Delise Andrews, who taught math (K-8) and is now a 3-5 grade math coordinator in the Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Leave a Reply