Maths is definitely my favourite subject to teach – I love it! I’ve always been good at Maths and grasped new concept easily – I never experienced difficult until I got to secondary school in 5th year when we were going to be streamed into pass and honours maths classes. I wanted to do honours but the teacher was racing ahead and although I was keeping up, I felt like I was only barely getting it and I was stressed so I had pretty much decided to do pass level. I still remember the feeling of bewilderment and confusion sitting in the room and not knowing what was going on. Unfortunately many children experience this stress at a much younger age – in primary level and develop a fear of maths and a huge hatred towards it.
I’m currently teaching 5th class and I find the maths curriculum ridiculous – there is way too much content – some of which is utterly pointless and irrelevant to the children (fractions being a major bug bear of mine!)
I think we need to go back to the basics – can the child add/subtract/multiply/ divide? Do they know how to use decimals? Do they know how to find perimeter/area? Do they know why they will use perimeter and area and the relevance in the ‘real’ world? Can they add/subtract/multiply and divide with decimals? Can they find the percentage increase/decrease?
Tips and Tricks
AHHHHHHHH STOP! It was only when I was in college that I realised why we use ‘magic zero’ in long multiplication – I just did it – never thought about it and was never taught why. There are so many different tricks and methods that we need in Maths but I firmly believe the children need to understand what they are doing and why before they learn the shortcuts!
Once they understand the concepts – then teach the tips and tricks!
For example with long multiplication; when I was teaching in the U.K. we first made sure that the children knew how to multiply a 2 digit number by a 1 digit number and that they understood that multiplication is repeated addition. Then we introduced long multiplication using the grid method. This ensured that the children understood what they were doing rather than just learning off a formula.
Shelley Grey Teaching goes through a variety of different method for teaching long multiplication!
My class nearly drove me mad this year with skipping rough work and using only mental strategies and then getting an incorrect answer and they couldn’t explain how they got there. I firmly believe that everything should be on paper – if you don’t get to correct something immediately then the children can still explain what they did and if they make mistake it is easy to see which area they need support with.
I’m a stickler for perfect pages – ruled, one number per box, don’t squash anything in, use a ruler etc. I think this keeps things in order and it’s easier to keep track of the methods used.
If children make a mistake, I encourage them to cross out and rewrite rather than rubbing out (especially if they have made more than 1 mistake) as it is much easier to start on a clean slate rather than trying to decipher everything.
I try to use whiteboards during every maths lesson – its so much easier to rub out a mistake/ just start again. Usually I do an example or two on the board, then we try 2/3 on the whiteboards and then some more in the copies. For children who are struggling we continue to use whiteboards before moving onto independent copy work.
Try to make the subject relatable – when we were learning about lines and angles I was in the process of buying an apartment – it was a new build so at the time we were in the process of doing the snag and I used this as a way to make lines and angles real and the children were immediately interested and engaged and knew they had to use the protractors were perfect precision as if they were builders and architects themselves! For money we used ‘real’ objects and packaging that the children brought in!
Let the children use everything they need to make sense of and understand a problem. If a child doesn’t know their tables – let them use a multiplication grid or a tables list – this means the child can grasp the concept and not have to focus on tables.
Use as much maths language as possible – use different words or phrases and get the children to use these too – great way to check for understanding!