How to Create a Mathematically Rich Learning Environment

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  • 0:03 The Typical Math Classroom
  • 0:42 Desk Arrangement
  • 1:15 Displays
  • 1:54 Manipulatives
  • 2:36 Technology
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

In this lesson, you'll learn how you can set up your classroom to encourage your high school students to explore and learn more about math. Learn how desk placement, displays, and manipulatives can have a real impact on learning.

The Typical Math Classroom

What do you usually see when you walk into a high school math classroom? Usually, you'll see desks placed in rows and columns with students working individually or listening to the teacher talking. Do the students look engaged? Perhaps some are, but most probably aren't. Math isn't usually a topic that students rave about to their friends.

So, what can you do to make your classroom a mathematically rich learning environment, one that's designed to encourage students to learn about math and gain a deeper understanding of concepts? There are a variety of things to consider when attempting to create this environment, including desk placement, visual displays, manipulatives, and technology. Let's take a closer look at each one.

Desk Arrangement

The arrangement of desks in the classroom can make a big difference when creating a mathematically rich learning environment. The traditional high school math classroom has student desks aligned in rows and columns, but this may not be the best arrangement for engaging students with a stimulating math learning experience.

You can show your students that math is not a dry topic, where all they can do is to sit and listen, by changing the placement of student desks. Try arranging desks in groups to encourage collaborative learning and team work, or in a U-shape with desks touching each other to encourage both individual learning and teamwork.


Show your love for math by displaying math posters. Good posters to display are ones that show how math is used in the real world. Students don't want to see posters full of formulas and numbers; they need to see how learning math will be useful in their life. Most students don't see a need to learn more math, so you need to show them otherwise.

Other things you can display may be pictures of real people using math in the real world. You can include a story next to the picture about how math is needed in the real world by that person. If you have time, you can also create posters of your own showing situations that your students are likely to come across and show how math can help them. For example, show posters of shopping or eating out and how math can help them figure out discounts and tips.

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