Maths is a crucial subject that often gets a bad rap.
Every year, a few students develop (or have previous) negative feelings towards mathematics. Instead of dwelling on the reasons why this may be the case, it’s important for educators to take steps to change this perception.
Confidence and enjoyment are key factors in learning, and by starting the year off strong with positive math instruction, we can significantly impact our students’ outcomes. We are passionate about delivering Maths lessons that are engaging and fun, and we want to help you do the same.
Here are 8 ways to build a positive learning experience for students in a maths class (& as a bonus, we have a free printable at the end of this post):
1. Assess and address gaps in learning
It’s no fun for students to sit through a lesson on something they already know. But, like building a house, math concepts build upon each other. If students have gaps in their learning, it’s essential to identify and teach them before moving on to more complex concepts.
Easy hack to do this: Use exit tickets. They are great for getting a quick idea if a student understands the concept or not. Even though the name, ‘exit ticket’, implies they come at the end of a lesson, there are no rules. We use exit tickets all the time as a quick pretest.
2. Use explicit teaching methods
Modelling and teaching students how to apply concepts is crucial. This can be done in small groups, during centres, or through “teachable moments” within the lesson.
Easy hack to do this: Use the I do, we do, you do model. You teach your students a concept and then do an example for them. Next, they use a mini whiteboard to have a go themselves with your support. Finally students move away to work on and consolidate the skill independently.
3. Emphasize the importance of place value
Place value is a fundamental concept in Maths, but it can be difficult for students to master.
Teaching and reinforcing place value throughout the year can help students understand the number system and build a foundation for other mathematical skills.
Easy hack to do this in the younger years: Set up a 100 days of school countdown. Each day look at the number and spend 5-10 mins writing it in words, representing it using MAB, showing it on a tens frame, partitioning it or even writing number sentences about the number.
Easy hack to do this in the older years: Have a place value display in your classroom that you can constantly refer to. If you can, record numbers under your chart, so students clearly visualise the number according to its place value.
4. Show students what good mathematicians do
Teach students how good mathematicians record their work, what language they use, and how they use different strategies. By seeing themselves as mathematicians, students can shift their mindset and feel more confident in math class.
Easy hack to do this: Explicitly show students while you are modelling to them what good mathematicians do. You can also stop students in the middle of the lesson and point out a student’s work or ask students to share at the end of a lesson so they are learning from each other.
5. Use hands-on activities
Students learn best by doing, so providing concrete materials can help them understand concepts better. It’s also a great way to scaffold learning before moving from concrete to abstract math.
Easy hack to do this: Invest in some games to consolidate skills that are important for the age group you are teaching. For example, in Grade 1, focus on Friends to ten. In Grade 3 & 4, focus on times table recall. These games are hands-on and can be used over and over.
6. Differentiate instruction
Acknowledge that students aren’t all cut from the same mould and aim to cater for different learning styles.
Mix up your lessons with visual, auditory, and hands-on activities. Allow students to work alone, in groups, or choose where they work. This keeps students engaged and helps to cater to their unique needs.
Easy hack to do this: Run Maths groups. It is such a simple way to differentiate for the needs of your students. Read more about Maths groups here.
7. Make Growth Mindset a focus of your Maths lessons
We are hearing about a growth mindset all the time but Maths lessons are the perfect time for students to put these skills into action. Use growth mindset phrases to help students, refer them to a classroom display if they are struggling and, most importantly, acknowledge when they use their growth mindset to achieve something in their learning.
Easy hack to do this #1: Have a growth mindset display up in your classroom to refer to daily.
Easy hack to do this #2: Use our free ‘Growth Mindset in Action’ tags to acknowledge when students have pushed themselves to grow and stretch their brain.
8. Make Maths fun
Change the narrative around maths by making it enjoyable for students. Ask them what they enjoy about maths class and incorporate those elements into your lessons.
Provide real-world problems to solve and celebrate student successes. Maths takes up a significant portion of a student’s weekly learning, so it’s important for them to find success and enjoyment in the subject.
Easy hack to do this: Use everyday resources that engage your students. We love these UNO activities because they cover a range of skills but also have extremely high engagement rates among kids.
We hope this post has inspired you to deliver Maths lessons that your students are going to rave about.