When students can work collaboratively to solve problems, share solution strategies, and make connections between those strategies, they support one another and learn and grow together. Use these five ideas to help creatively engage your students in math again.
A simple way to get kids engaged in math lessons is to have them be in charge of their own learning. Give them space to build their own understanding with opportunities to solve problems in ways that make sense to them, then share their thinking with the class. Student work can launch discussions that help the entire class grow and make connections between different strategies. It also helps them develop a positive math identity to see that their ideas have value.
Though students may work individually, in pairs, or as a group, encourage them to explain their solutions and ask questions of each other to critique and defend their thinking. They may discuss among themselves or you can have them write their work on the board to make connections. Facilitate the discussion with questions such as “Drew added to solve, but Kaylee subtracted. Why do both of these strategies work?” This method helps students learn that their thinking matters and not just getting the right answer, and that there can be multiple ways to solve the same problem, which reduces stress-related barriers to math competency.
Build Math Literacy
Students who are still developing their reading skills need extra support to be successful in other reading-dependent subjects like math. To help facilitate both literacy and math skills, read directions aloud to your students and explain vocabulary words like “exchange”, “digit”, and “decompose”. Repeat these words often and explain them again when necessary. Younger grades and ESL students will appreciate the extra attention to their needs, keeping them engaged in the math lessons and building their confidence at the same time.
Bringing art into your math lessons is a great way to engage your students and help them build knowledge in multiple content areas. This allows students to solve word problems using the art piece as the context. For example, you can ask them to count how many adults and children are in a painting, or name the shapes being used. Take it one step further and choose an image with an accessible context and diversity in subjects so all students can see themselves represented. This way you’ll help them build SEL skills while also learning math concepts.
Make it a Game
To encourage active learning and deeper engagement, give students games to help them understand math concepts. “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” is a class favorite. For more advanced students, develop a problem with more than one right answer and have students share their reasoning for their choice. Another way to make math more physical is to hang signs around your classroom that represent different answers. Then, ask the students the problem and have them stand underneath the sign that has their answer. After everyone has chosen, students can describe their thinking and can change groups if they want.
Math is often one of the least-enjoyed content areas in school, but these ideas can help bring the rich learning experience you want back to the classroom.