The Importance of Variety in Mathematics Instruction

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

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

How do you meet the needs of all of your little mathematicians in the classroom? Although it's not easy, you can help each individual achieve through careful planning and instruction. Take a look at this lesson to figure out how you can promote students' mathematics abilities!

Instructional Strategies

Think about all of the students you have in your classroom. How are they different? How are they similar?

As a teacher, you deal with varying abilities and personalities within your own classroom. No two students are alike, and that can make instruction difficult. However, if you take the time to incorporate a variety of instructional strategies in your lesson, you can reach each student to help him/her achieve to their greatest ability in mathematics. Instructional strategies are simply the way in which you grab your students' attention and help them succeed.

Using a variety of instructional strategies will help your effectiveness as a teacher in numerous ways.

Importance of Changing Things Up

Do you often get bored with certain tasks, conferences, trainings? Students get bored just like adults. They have a lot of things going on in their lives and little minds whether it's from play to school to home. If you can change things up in your math class, you will keep your students engaged.

The more engaged students are, the easier it is to get them to learn. Even if a math concept is difficult, such as comparing fractions, you have the tools you need to help students achieve! Varying your teaching strategies will help to meet the needs of all of your different learners.

Let's take a look at some ideas for instructional strategies that will promote students' abilities.

What a Variety!

There are so many ways to help students learn. Resources are out there and it's important to use everything you can to effectively meet the needs of your students.

Take a look at the image to see various instructional strategies and examples of tasks students can complete.

Instructional Strategies

Through careful planning and attention to the various tasks you are giving your students, you can easily incorporate more than one of these instructional strategies in each mathematics lesson.

Direct Instruction

There is a time, place, and need for direct instruction where the teacher has the most active role in the classroom. However, it needs to be used carefully to be effective especially with younger children. The amount of time students can pay attention and focus varies, so you need to keep that in mind when delivering a lesson.

Using direct instruction usually occurs at the beginning of a lesson and with a new concept. If you would be teaching students how to compare fractions, you would possibly start out by explaining how it's done.

Check out some other examples of how to use direct instruction:

  • Workbooks and handouts
  • Practice and drill

Moving on from direct instruction, you will allow the students to take more of a role in their learning.

Indirect Instruction

The opposite of direct instruction is indirect instruction. It is led more by the student than the teacher. Students take more of a role in their own learning. They will develop problem solving skills, use concept maps, and work through guided inquiries.

Using guided inquiry to teach students about comparing fractions would possibly look like:

  • Provide groups of students with a handful of counters, drawing paper, and pencils.
  • Pose the question: Is this correct, 3/7 is less than 6/21?
  • Allow groups time to explore to figure out if this is the correct answer. They must show and explain their work in figuring out the answer. Groups can use the counters, pencil and paper, or other means necessary to determine the answer.
  • Provide guidance and questions for students if needed.
  • When all groups have finished, compare and contrast answers that students came up with.

Giving students more of a role helps them take learning into their own hands and stay more engaged. Check out the next instructional strategy!

Interactive Instruction

This strategy for instruction encourages discussion and interactions among students. It requires active participation from the student.

Students get opportunities to help one another through:

  • Cooperative learning
  • Role play
  • Problem solving in groups
  • Open discussions
  • Brainstorming

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