Approaches to Learning in Mathematics

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Are you trying to figure out how each of your students learns best? Look no further! This lesson will provide you with explanations and ideas on approaches that students use to learn mathematics in the classroom.

Do We All Learn Mathematics the Same?

How do you learn mathematics best? Would you say that you like to listen to instruction, watch something, or actually dig your hands in and solve a problem? Everyone has his or her own learning style, or way of acquiring information. This is vital to remember in the classroom with your students when planning for the various approaches to mathematics.

By incorporating students' interests and learning styles, you can make learning mathematics fun and achievable. Howard Gardner realized that all people learn in different ways. Our brains are ''wired,'' so to speak, toward a specific intelligence where we excel. He came up with the theory of multiple intelligences, or various ways that people figure out things and use knowledge.

Check out the image of multiple intelligences and see where you fit. You may even feel drawn to more than one!

Multiple Intelligences

By knowing where students excel and how they learn best, you will successfully plan and develop math lessons that allow each student to flourish. However, it is often difficult to pinpoint exact learning styles for students. Therefore, you should allow students to use a variety of approaches in your mathematics class.

Let's take a look at some approaches students may take to develop better number sense in mathematics.

Common Approaches to Learning Math

Taking into consideration what your students are best at will aid in understanding which approach to learning mathematics works well for each student. Since all learners are different, students will have a specific approach to learning that works well for them. When you tie in their interests, what they are confident at, and their learning styles, you can help each student achieve. Through thoughtful lesson planning, you should be able to meet the needs of all your students.

The five common approaches can be seen in the image.

Learning Approaches to Mathematics

Let's read more about each type!

Do You Hear Me?

Some students find watching and listening to the teacher a successful learning style. Auditory learners watch as the teacher delivers the lesson and models how to solve a problem to understand a concept. For example, if you are teaching students how to do long division, they may master this task just by watching and listening to you!

Here are a few tips to help your auditory learners:

  • Use a conversational tone.
  • Incorporate various multiple intelligences.
    • Example: Using a mnemonic device will help your ''music smart'' and ''word smart'' students.
      • Steps for long division mnemonic device: Does McDonald's Serve Cheese Burgers; D = Divide, M = Multiply, S = Subtract, C = Check, B = Bring down.
  • Relate to real-life problems that involve the students.
    • Example: Mrs. Long wants to share her bag of chocolates with the 20 students in her class. If there are 108 pieces of candy in the bag, how many pieces would each student get? How many would be left over?

I See

Seeing is believing for some learners. Students taking this approach will find help when they see the teacher model a problem or have pictures to go along with instruction. This is a fun way to grab students' attention because you can use pictures and actually show the students how to solve a problem.

Visual learners like to have some type of visual representation of the concept being taught. Often your ''spatial smart'' students do well with this approach.

In teaching long division, a picture of the mnemonic device would help your visual learners. Think of how often a picture grabs your attention when reading or doing something.

Check out these ideas for the visual learning style approach:

  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Watching someone else

Give Me That

For hands-on learning styles, students like to take hold of the problems themselves. These learners take a much more active approach to grasp a concept. Students learning mathematics with this approach use manipulatives or other objects to aid in understanding.

When learning how to use long division, hands-on learners benefit from using blocks, counters, or other objects. They can literally work through a problem with their hands. Your ''body smart'' students would find this approach very engaging.

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