How to Make Math Fun and Engaging for primary school students

If you are like many teachers we talk to, running successful maths lessons that are outcomes-based, differentiated and engaging can seems like an overwhelming and perhaps impossible task.

We are here to change that and help you deliver authentic learning experiences in Maths day in, day out.

Stick with us, and Maths time will be a time of day that you and your students love!

Here are 6 ways you can build student engagement and enjoyment in Maths:

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1. Explicitly teach key concepts

We don’t mean ‘chalk and talk’ here. Explicit teaching may be in a small group, during centres, or finding ‘teachable moments’ within the lesson when students are working on a task.

Explicit teaching also means modelling the skill to students and teaching them how to apply the content.

Every successful lesson will have an element of explicit teaching to assist students to access the content at an instructional level.

The aim with making explicit instruction more engaging for students is to get them involved! Simply make your teaching slides interact, allowing for student participation. Get them up to demonstrate. Pull out the whiteboards and markers or manipulatives and get them practising the skill right then and there!

2. Celebrate risk taking

Maths is often a subject students dislike or don’t feel confident in. Time to turn those negative feelings around…

As we know, a key aspect of learning is confidence and enjoyment.

Encourage your students to have a growth mindset during maths lessons. Offer them mantras like:

“Mistakes help us learn”

“You can do hard things”


“We aren’t there YET, let’s work this out together”.

Also provide materials that allow them to take risks and make mistakes easily, such as using concrete materials or recording their learning on a mini whiteboard.

Provide open-ended questions as a warm-up where there are MANY answers. For example the answer is 20, what could the question be?

3. Show students what good mathematicians do

Students need to know how they can be successful in math lessons.

Throughout your teaching, explain to them how good mathematicians would record their thinking and problem solving, the language they would use, plus how good mathematicians like to use a range of strategies and so on.

Mindsets can be shifted when students see themselves as mathematicians instead of just kids doing math.

Model your thinking! It doesn’t need to be perfect and get them sharing their thinking too.

4. Make it Hands-on and fun

We know students learn best by doing and having concrete materials available. It is also an important step for moving students from the concrete to the abstract learning in mathematics.

Providing structures to scaffold and assist will contribute to a growth in confidence, which will positively impact students’ feelings towards math. We are not just talking about the early years; this is just as applicable in the primary years!

Lastly, hands-on activities are engaging and not as overwhelming – two key components to a successful Maths lesson!

5. Differentiate your instruction (without the fuss)

Differentiation doesn’t need to mean different activities for every child in, your classroom. It is about catering for the different points of need amongst your students.

Your lessons can be differentiated by content, outcome, process, pace or support and resources.

When planning, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the learning intention / what do I want the students to achieve at the end of this lesson?
  • Can I provide an open-ended task to cater for the diverse needs of my students as a way of differentiating?
  • Does this lesson lend itself to students working in smaller ability groups targeting a specific concept or misconception?

It can be as simple as providing a game which has different versions. For example, students are learning time and you have three games, one for o’clock, another for half past and the last one quarter to the hour.

6. Cater for different learning styles where you can

This is so important no matter what subject you are teaching. Acknowledging the differences between individuals and catering to different learners is vital for every student to access the content you are trying to teach.

Mix up your lessons and have elements of visual, auditory and hands-on experiences.

Allow students to engage with each other, work independently or choose how and where they work.

Mixing things up not only provides for the different students in your care, but also keeps them on their toes!

So is it possible to do all of this at once??

YES! And it isn’t as hard as you think!

If you are like most teachers, it is overwhelming to try and successfully fit all these components in one lesson (and have it actually run smoothly).

If you feel like this, then running Maths Groups in your classroom might be the answer you have been waiting for. All it takes is some organisation, putting into place a few new systems, and a commitment to transforming your Maths lessons into a time of day that you and your students can’t wait for!

Read more about how we recommend you start running maths groups in your classroom here.

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What to read next…

Why you need to be using Number of the Day (plus a FREE copy!)

Awesome Math Centre activities for Multiplication

Skip counting activities for different learning styles

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