Math is often a subject that students either find easy or they find hard. Some would even say they get it or they don’t. This doesn’t have to be the case since it is possible for all students to be successful at math. It all depends on what is done in the classroom and how the material is taught. Over the years the teaching styles of classroom teachers has changed when it comes to math and teachers are now discovering that the best way to teach math is to do so by having the students build and create their own understanding. The students must be able to understand the concept if they are to complete activities and succeed in the area. It is the job of the teacher to present chances for students to build their understanding.
In a traditional math classroom, the students use text books and pencil and paper activities to learn how to perform math operations. Teachers are able to quickly find out who can do the work and who cannot. But is this a fair assessment of a student’s ability? Is it fair to say that a student cannot add and subtract because they cannot line up the numbers, they cannot carry and borrow and they do not get the right answer? If you were honest with yourself as a teacher your obvious response would be no, this is not a fair assessment of a student’s math abilities. But how can we get a fair assessment, what can we do?
The first thing that teachers can do to improve math skills is to start at the basics. You cannot assume that all students have a basic understanding of numbers and number concepts. It is important for all teachers to do quick five minute assessments at the beginning of the year and throughout the school year to figure out who is getting the concept and who is not. Once you have determined this, it would be good to divide the class into groups.
Groups should consist of mixed abilities so that students can work together to help each other. While you have groups working, you should also be working with a group of students, most importantly the lower ability students as research has shown that struggling students who work with the teacher directly on a daily basis show vast improvements in their math abilities. While working with these groups students should be given plenty of manipulatives to use so they can create their own understanding of the math concepts. It is important to show students that there is more than one way to do something and that it is not about getting the right answer but more importantly about the process of getting the answer.