Teaching Math

Probably one of the most dreaded subjects in school is math. Many students fear this subject and perhaps rightfully so. This post will provide some basic tips on how to help students to understand what is happening in math class.

Chunk the Material

Many math textbooks, especially at the college level, are huge. By huge we are talking over 1000 pages. That is a tremendous amount of content to cover in a single semester even if the majority of the pages are practice problems.

To overcome this, many have chapters that are broken down into 5 sub-sections such as 1.1, 1.2, etc. This means that in a given class period, students should be exposed to 2 or 3 new concepts. Depending on their background this might be too many for a student, especially if they are not a math major.

Therefore, a math teacher must provide new concepts only after previous concepts are mastered. This means that the syllabus needs to flexible and the focus is on the growth of students rather than covering all of the material.

Verbal Walk Through

When teaching math to a class, normally a teacher will provide an example of how to do a problem. The verbal walkthrough is when the teacher completes another example of the problem and the students tell the teacher what to do verbally. This helps to solidify the problem-solving process in the students’ minds.

A useful technique in relation to the verbal walkthrough is to intentional make mistakes when the students are coaching you. This requires the students to think about what is corrected and to be able to explain what was wrong with what the teacher did. The wisest approach is to make mistakes that have been experienced in the past as these are the ones that are likely to be repeated.

The verbal walkthrough works with all students of all ages. It can be more chaotic with younger children but this is a classic approach to teaching the step-by-step process of learning math calculations.

Practice Practice Practice

Daily practice is needed when learning mathematical concepts. Students should be learning new material while reviewing old material. The old material is reviewed until it becomes automatic.

This requires the teacher to determine the most appropriate mix of new and old. Normally, math has a cumulative effect in that new material builds on old. This means that students are usually required to use old skills to achieve new skills. The challenge is in making sure the old skills are at a certain minimum level that they can be used to acquire new skills.

Conclusion

Math is tough but if a student can learn it math can become a highly practical tool in everyday life. The job of the teacher is to develop a context in which math goes from mysterious to useful.

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