What is the "Maths Trains Brains" campaign?

Maths Trains Brains is a directive by the NSW government to educate, inspire and encourage students of all ages to understand the importance of maths in everyday life. 

Maths can be a tricky subject. I remember when I was at school, many of my friends ranged from "hating maths" to "just never good at it." What are the reasons for kids having such a hard time with numbers? Is it because numbers themselves are tricky, or is it because maths at school usually isn't being taught in the proper way?

It can be easy to say "I don't have a maths brain" and give up. It can be easy for parents and teachers to give up teaching their students maths if they are met with constant frustration and angst around the subject. 

However, this nation-wide campaign aims to increase the awareness and impact of maths in everyday life and the importance of teaching maths through effective instruction. Carmen Michael, NSW Department of Education's content manager says "to help grow students’ proficiency in maths, it is necessary to foster positive attitudes towards maths, which are shown to be a key factor in students’ achievement" and this is worthy aim.

What is the aim of the "Maths Trains Brains" campaign?

“The statewide Maths Trains Brains campaign aims to set the groundwork in engaging parents, carers and students, by providing knowledge and tools to show maths in a positive way.

“For our students, this means being able to notice, wonder and engage with the maths they come across in the world around them; and by exploring the possibilities and opportunities they can experience by learning and studying maths.

“For parents and carers, this highlights the relevancy of maths by showcasing where it is in their everyday life, empowering them to become more involved in their child’s maths education.

“Whether it's sports, fashion, music, science, technology, engineering, art or food, a ‘maths trained brain’ can take our students anywhere – now and into the future,” Ms Michael said.

Numbers are tactile and can be seen, felt and experienced in many ways. The Maths Trains Brains campaign provides a wonderful explanation of the relationship we have with maths in everyday life. It's a very engaging relationship that is shown across many areas of sports, cooking, games and future careers.

Watch the short video below:

The main problem is that maths often isn't taught using hands-on, multisensory methods. When maths is taught in the classroom, it is usually taught in abstract ways. That means when teachers introduce this topic, it is usually numbers scribbled on a whiteboard or going through maths equations in a workbook.

For many kids, this approach doesn't work. Depending on what type of learner your student is (audio, kinaesthetic, visual) they will understand concepts in a different way. But as all research agrees, having a hands-on component when learning a new concept is essential. 

Using hands-on tools and teaching maths as a language makes a huge difference in the way a student will comprehend, learn and be able to use maths in daily life. When we, as teachers, engage the kinaesthetic and hands-on part of the brain of our students, it increases their understanding, knowledge and retention of any subject - particularly maths. 

How do you make maths hands-on and engaging?

Creating a direct link with the kinaesthetic brain by using hands-on tools is the key to making maths effective for a student's educational experience. By using hands-on manipulatives, students get the chance to learn by full sensory immersion. They get to touch, feel and experience maths from day one which gives them a complete understanding of numbers, what they are and how to use them. This sensory connection to numbers and what they mean is the key component that will make or break maths understanding for your student.

By using tactile resources to teach maths all the way through to high school and University level maths (not just in kindergarten), teachers create a foundational way to teach and learn numbers, from basic addition to advanced algebra. Research shows that by using the same methods and teaching tools all the way through a student's education, students get much better results and have greater confidence in maths.

This approach is particularly effective with students requiring intervention and those with learning differences, as we have seen from schools and teachers using our effective maths program across Australia. 

How do you know what your student needs?

You can quite easily tell if your student is struggling with maths. If they look bored in maths class, continue to ask the same questions over and over, don't complete homework, constantly get poor maths results, or disrupt the class with inappropriate behaviour, you can be quite certain that they've missed what you're teaching. It means they need a little more focus and support - and often, a new approach. 

By using hands-on manipulatives in your maths lessons, you will have a simple and effective solution to your student's maths problems. These research-proven methods enable your student to learn will learn numbers in a much more concrete way, increase confidence and get better maths results.

If you want to check your student's current maths understanding, you can take the free diagnostic test here. Results are automatically calculated so you'll know exactly where to start and how to teach effective maths to your students:

Are you a teacher looking for support?

Most of the time, teachers have their hands full juggling classroom schedules, completing syllabus requirements, marking student's work and collaborating about each term's workload.

Maths is a tricky subject and if you haven't had the time to sit down and plan a new approach for struggling students, finding a solution to maths is often swept under the carpet. It's planned for next term's focus and then somehow makes it to the bottom of the list. If you are a teacher and are looking for a better approach to teaching maths, simple methods you can start using straight away in your classroom with great results, come and join our specialised Teacher Training.

In our online Teacher Trainings, we go through the foundations of maths, teaching addition, subtraction, time and then move onto fractions, decimals and percents. If you want to know more about these teacher-specific sessions, you can check out how we support you and your students here.

What is one issue you mostly struggle with teaching your students? Is it place value, addition, multiplication or division? Leave your answers in the comments below

The Team at Maths Australia

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