Teaching Strategies for Elementary Math

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  • 0:04 Making Math Interesting
  • 1:01 Teaching Strategies
  • 3:15 Flipped Classroom
  • 4:38 Peer Tutoring
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

This lesson discusses educational strategies for teaching math at the elementary level. We cover cooperative learning, flipped classrooms, and peer tutoring, all of which can be used by educators to support math instruction.

Making Math Interesting

Do you remember math class when you first learned to count to ten in elementary school? Was it fun, or difficult, or both? Learning math can be fun for many students, but at times it can cause us anxiety. After all, even Edison admitted he struggled with mathematics at times. Therefore, a great math teacher knows how to not only teach students the fundamentals but also make students get excited about the challenge of learning it.

Due to the Common Core standards, elementary school students are now expected to perform more complicated math problems and also grasp the math concepts.

When considering which teaching strategy to use with students it should be noted that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) believes calculators are okay to use. In addition, the NCTM believes each elementary school should have a mathematics specialist. This person may be a great resource when implementing new strategies to your math instruction.

Teaching Strategies

So which strategy is the best? Well, the truth is each method has its advantages, both to the educator and to the pupils.

Cooperative learning is a common strategy in which students work in groups to complete an assigned project or activity. Each group member must be held accountable for all work that is to be completed. One of the most important points to remember about cooperative learning is that the groups are mixed-ability or heterogeneous. In other words, all levels of abilities are put together in each small group.

Direct instruction: also known as explicit instruction, this is an exacting form of teaching that may even include the use of material that is scripted. The instructor uses material that has been learned previously and then connects it to newer material. The first step is orientation, in which the educator may stimulate student's brains with pertinent questions. Second, the initial instruction may include sample problems. Third, with teacher-guided practice, the students try to solve problems. Fourth, during independent practice students work alone. Fifth, the instructor checks answers, and finally the teacher reteaches difficult problems.

In 1945, George Polya presented his respected, famous four-step process for solving problems. This process could be taught to students in math class through the use of direct instruction. Polya says, first try to understand the problem. How do we understand the problems of the world? One way is to ask questions. What is the given information? Can I restate the problem in my own words? What am I being asked to solve? Second, devise a plan to solve the problem. Use the old method of guessing and checking to see if an answer fits. Eliminate obvious wrong answers and look for obvious patterns.

Third, carry out the plan to solve the problem. Go ahead and solve the problem. If the answer is not correct, adjust your strategy or start over with a new one. Like Edison and the light bulb, keep on trying. Fourth and finally, look back and then extend the problem. It is a good idea to always check a solution. Does the answer seem reasonable? Could there be multiple answers? Could I extend the problem by creating my own story or word problem?

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