Math Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
- What Math Class Used to Be Like
Do you remember quietly sitting in math class watching your teacher write problems on the board and copying them into your notebook? Many of us were either bored or confused in math. That could be partly because the class was taught using a teacher-based approach for years. Homework consisted of completing odd and even problems in our math book, and was the same for everyone.
- Making Math Class Better
Enter: the problem-based approach to math instruction, in which children are expected to find multiple ways to approach a problem. This fresh look at learning math gives children a chance to ask themselves how they can make sense out of the problem, instead of just following the teacher’s instructions and the rest of the class.
The teacher can then participate in how their students learn: by looking at each child’s current knowledge and level of understanding and making individual adjustments to the class plan. The whole class benefits from honoring children’s varying abilities and allowing them to use their skills to best solve the math problems.
- No More “We’re Not a Math Family”
In parent-teacher conferences, we hear parents say, “oh, she gets it from me, I’m not good at math, either”, or “our family isn’t very good at math.” Never do we hear parents or teachers say this about literacy – that would sound strange to us. When we do this, we might be unknowingly telling our children that it’s ok to give up on math when things get tough, instead of working through a problem.
- Building Confidence in the Math Classroom
So how do we help give our children the confidence and tools to feel comfortable learning something new – in this case math? Experts say it involves changing our approach to solving math problems. We need to help children go into a math challenge with the mindset that they can figure it out using multiple strategies: there is not only one correct way to go about finding a solution; rather, children can be creative and use their skills to work through the process.
- The Takeaway: Say Goodbye to “Do-As-I-Show-You” for Math Success
How we teach mathematics has evolved from rote memorization to applying math to real problems. Instead of the “old” approach, the “do-as-I-show-you” way, tackling math instruction by allowing children to try different strategies builds their confidence as well as their skills. When children have to think through a problem, they tend to be more engaged in the subject matter. Skills and ideas develop organically. The bottom line: this problem-solving approach pushes children to think for themselves, instead of just memorizing the steps to get the right answer, without necessarily understanding why. That’s what works well in the math classroom.