I’ve already written a blogpost on Maths Fear (which you can read here) and the damning effect it can have on children in relation to their achievement in Maths but I’ve been tackling maths fear in my own classroom this year and I’ve found some strategies have worked really well.
Stress – Out the Window or Down the Stairs
This works a treat. I noticed at the beginning of Maths lessons (at the start of the year) the stress levels in the class would rise and the some children would immediately shut down – they seemed to have a complete mental block when it came to Maths (especially new or slightly trickier topics). So I started the lesson with a ‘throw your stress out the window’ or in very bad cases leave the room (for 10 seconds) and kick the stress down the stairs. This massively reduced stress levels and added a bit of humour instead!
I begin every new topic by using whiteboards and we do tons of practice on whiteboards before we use our copies. Sometimes the ruling of copies and having everything laid out well is too much pressure on top of trying to remember how to do the problem.
With whiteboards, a mistake can be easily rubbed out or fixed and there’s no evidence left afterwards either.
I use same ability maths partners sometimes during Maths lessons – I find this works well as children are appropriately challenged and supported by their peers who are at their level. (You can read more about Maths Partners here)
I also use random partners and encourage children to help the child beside them by giving them a step in the right direction (not giving away the full answer). The key is that each child should be able to explain what they did and why.
This has worked brilliantly in my class – basically halfway through a lesson I turn into an ‘alien’ -It’s as simple as saying – Ms. Dunphy is now an alien; who can explain what you’re doing and why?” (You can read more about Alien Explanation here)
This encourages children to use mathematical language and ensures that they really understand the new concept being covered.
I model new maths language and repeat it continually throughout the lesson – encouraging children to use it too. (I have a fantastic SET teacher so we both use the language repeatedly and while working with individual children or in groups we ask the children what words or phrases mean and for examples.)
Mini surgeries (optional)
This is an idea I got from my SET teacher last year and I love it! Basically after a few days of a new topic – I do a quick revision on what we have covered so far and any child who is finding an aspect difficult go to a mini ‘surgery’ where myself (as class teacher) or the SET teacher take the children and do an intensive drill on the area they are finding difficult. It is an optional support for the children which means that the children don’t feel they are in the ‘weak’ group and they are taking responsibility for their learning.
While this is happening the other teacher works with the rest of the class on the same topic or on problem solving type activities based on the topic being covered.
Real life Maths
No matter what topic we are doing from decimals to multiplication, long division to lines and angles I bring in some real life maths on the topic. My class love when I tell them little stories about my own life e.g. I went for coffee and cake after school with Ms. _____ and the bill came to 7.88 – how much did we each owe? To be honest the stories are usually true too and the children are instantly engaged in the topic.