Teaching Math: Methods & Strategies

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  • 0:00 The Math Teacher
  • 0:35 Methods for Teaching Math
  • 3:29 Teaching Math Strategies
  • 5:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Teachers play an important role in fostering mathematics skills. In this lesson, learn some good ways to teach math methods and problem-solving strategies.

The Math Teacher

Math teachers have a nuanced job. They must teach the building blocks of math, such as number sense and operational skills, as well as boost students' ability to think about problems. They need to incorporate aspects of language, including reading and writing, into their subject and provide direct instruction on methods of exploration. Additionally, math teachers must motivate students to try and teach them to persevere when problems are challenging. Let's look at some of the best methods and strategies for a quality math program.

Methods for Teaching Math

When we talk about a method of instruction, we mean how content is being taught. This runs the gamut from style of instruction—for example, lecture vs. hands-on—to materials used. Here are some tried and true methods for teaching math:

Use Visuals

Many students need to see a lesson in addition to hearing it. While explaining an operation or skill, use a visual or graphic to help get the point across. This can be as simple as showing the lesson on a document camera or as savvy as using a video or other technology tool.

Note that children do best when instruction is paired with a visual; using a visual as a stand-alone teaching device isn't always effective. Vary your usage to keep students engaged.

Make Connections

Our brains are machines that thrive on connections. In fact, long-term memory is a complicated web of neurons, or brain cells, banded together. To help students make sense of concepts, provide them with connections to the real world or previously taught lessons. Always begin a new lesson with a reminder of the last. For example, you might say, 'Yesterday, we learned about the numerator in fractions. Today, we'll take a closer look at the other part of a fraction: the denominator.'

Also, pay close attention to how students react to the connections you make. For example, one group might understand best when you use board games as an example, while another group might react better to an example connected to sports.

Use Assessments

Math is typically a progression-based subject. Skills build one upon another, and the order in which they're taught is predetermined. Because of this, a math teacher doesn't have to think much about what to teach when, but it is necessary to use assessments to determine student understanding. Formative assessments, or informal assessments meant to check in on student learning and drive future instruction, should be used frequently. This can help teachers identify students who struggle and allow additional small group or one-on-one instruction.

Formative assessments aren't usually taken for grades. Students need to feel comfortable with their exploration of a subject without fear of their performance being used for grading.

Focus on Strategies

As we'll talk about later, math is all about problem-solving using strategies. Sometimes, there's only one way to solve a problem, but many times there are multiple avenues to the answer. When teaching, model several strategies for understanding and exploring a concept. Encourage students to apply high-level skills when given problems and focus on the thought process involved in the solution. Although math usually only has one right answer, being able to reason through the steps to find the answer is the most important part of being a successful math student.

Teaching Math Strategies

As we discussed earlier, we want our students to be mathematical thinkers. This means they need to think strategically about solving math problems. A strategy, then, is a way teachers instruct for maximum benefit. Teachers use strategies to help students learn math as well. Thinking about how to best deliver a lesson is foremost in quality teaching. Some strategies include the following:

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