School News wrote a report on the essential need for multi-sensory maths to provide a well-rounded education to students. 

The article discusses nation-wide PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results and looks into what makes students understand - and be able to use - maths. 

PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. It was first performed in 2000 and then repeated every three years. It's aim is to provide comparable data with a view to enabling countries to improve their education policies and outcomes.

Each year, Australian school students sit the PISA exam. But what most results are indicating, especially in the past few years and has the education department very concerned, is a rapid decline in numerical understanding. 

The key to teaching students effectively is to show them each lesson in a way they understand. If you ask an elephant to climb a tree, it won't be able to complete the task and therefore, you need to find an alternate option. What works for one student doesn't work for every student. They are all individuals and must be taught accordingly.

The most effective way to impart knowledge is to show your student what you are teaching them. Show them numbers using hands-on manipulatives, and you'll start getting much better results. And happier, more confident students. 

Here's a good excerpt from the article, which discusses where to start with your students.

"Q: What are some tips for engaging students with different abilities and interests in a new programme?

Tip 1. Start where the student is at! Have them complete a placement test to determine where they sit in their sequential understanding of mathematics. Begin here and build on this as lack of understanding fosters boredom and disengagement.

Tip 2. Teach maths in a hands-on way and using the same multi-use manipulative so that the student can gain confidence in the tool being used and focus on understanding the maths content.

Tip 3. Teach sequentially. Maths is a sequential language that requires mastery of certain parts before being able to progress. I encourage teachers to place value on understanding first: students need to know what ‘132’ actually means, or what the symbols represent. Counting is the next step, being able to add by ones, 1+1=2. Fast counting comes next, where students can calculate 1+4=5, without having to finger count or count by ones. Subtraction is the inverse of addition, where students learn that since they know 1+4=5, they also know 5-4=1. Multiplication is introduced as fast addition of the same number, so 3+3+3+3=4x3=12.

Then division becomes the inverse of multiplication, where 12/4=3. The student understands each and every progression, and therefore develops confidence in mastery."

You can also check out the online placement tests here. These are a great diagnostic tool to determine where your student is at, so you know exactly what and how to teach your student to fill in those gaps. 

Let us know your comments below

The Team at Maths Australia

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