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
Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Expert Contributor
Will Welch

Will has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wyoming and has experience in a broad selection of chemical disciplines and college-level teaching.

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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Additional Activities

Applying Teaching Strategies to Multiplication

The following are some examples using strategies from the lesson to teach multiplication.

Visual Aids

Use a felt 12x12 grid with velcro or removable dots that fit in a square. Show how multiplying numbers is visually similar to creating rectangles of corresponding dimensions out of dots on the grid. Show how the same number made from different factors have different looking rectangles. For example 24 =12 x 2 or 6 x 4 or 3 x 8. Allows students to make rectangles with the device and discuss what they represent.


Take a recurring activity like eating three meals per day. With the aid of a multiplication table, demonstrate how you can use multiplication to calculate how many meals you eat in a three days, a week, or 10 days. If desired, verify using the felt grid.

Keep It Interesting

Have students work in pairs or groups. Each student should ask another how many people live at their house. Then, have them use either a multiplication table or something like the felt grid to deduce how many meals are eaten in their partners home per day, and then per week.

Think Alouds

Give students a multiplication table and ask them to find products of two numbers that you give out loud. Have them say the problem with you out loud as they use the table.

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