Whether we are teaching in a classroom or at the kitchen table, we have aspirations for our students and their education, including making lessons fun and memorable. It is easy for these goals to become bogged down in the drag of day-to-day life. It happens to the best of us, our picture perfect dreams fall to the side in exchange for "done is better than perfect"? This rut can happen with any topic however maths seems to be particularly prone. How can we pass on the merriment of learning maths to our students?
1) Invite On-Task Silliness
Maths is meaningful and necessary. We could approach it with a no nonsense attitude or as our very own Mr. Demme displays time and time again, you can welcome giggles and smiles into the lesson. Put on your best funny voice and read word problems, put on a mini play to act them out, or break out the art supplies to draw them. Take a moment to create fun stories or jokes for the problems. Most importantly enjoy maths with your student!
2) Say NO to Negativity
Self-confidence is key to captivating students. Spotlight the positive aspects of a student's work to encourage them. Research has proven that when an educator truly believes that every student is capable of maths mastery it makes a huge difference in student outcomes. Regardless of a student's progress, encourage them and provide reassurance that you believe in them!
A simple method to encourage a student who may be struggling is to focus on the number of questions completed correctly instead of those that are incorrect. Track this over time to highlight their improvement! Another tip is to focus on the sections of a solution that displays their mastery of a concept. Return and work through their stumbling blocks together.
3) Math Games & Activities
Purposeful games and activities are an incredible tool to introduce a fun element into your maths lessons. There are a tremendous number of options available to purchase. Pay Pinterest a visit for a wealth of DIY ideas too. Some students enjoy creating their own games, problems, and activities. There's an app for that too, check out your App store to review all of the fun educational apps available. The best maths related games and activities address skill development and provide lots of fun for students!
4) Be Student Paced
Students learn at individual paces and thats okay! Maths is sequential so when a student rushes from concept to concept without achieving mastery they tend to struggle with more difficult concepts later. More importantly, the student is deprived of the joy of understanding. Following the student's pace allows the student to engage, grapple, and enjoy the excitement of the lightbulb moments when they "get it".
5) Be Excited & Empathetic
Empathy shouldn't be reserved only for difficulties and sadness. We should be equally empathetic when it applies to happiness. Be sure to acknowledge those moments when the lightbulb goes off and the student "gets it". Pause and revel in the joy of learning. Expressing this excitement and joy with your students will help them to develop a lifelong love of learning!
Whether we are teaching in a classroom or at the kitchen table, we have aspirations for our students and their education, including making lessons fun and memorable! Share some of your favorite tips to make maths fun!
6) Celebrate Progress
No matter how small, celebrate improvements. Acknowledging progress along the way is just as important as reaching the end goal of maths mastery. A simple "way to go" goes a long way. Accolades are best when you can frame it around the student and not as a judgement from the teacher or parent. Some easy phrases to incorporate are "You did it!" or "You got it!" Even better link it to a specific concept or task.
Example: "Outstanding! You were able to correctly compute 36 facts on today's maths drill. That is 5 more than earlier this week!"
7) Celebrate Mastery Too!
Whether your student achieves mastery on the very first worksheet or later in a lesson, celebrate it! Each student is unique and so is their journey to maths mastery. For a large task, such as mastering the multiplication facts, a pat on the back and a "well done" may be suitable for one student. While a special meal, treat or prize may be in order for a student to who took several months to achieve the same goal. In all instances, celebrate mastery so that your student feels the fulfillment and joy of learning.
Hope it helps!
The Team at Maths Australia