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How to Make Math Less Challenging ”
Mathematics is unsurprisingly the most difficult subject in school for many students. It is not particularly complex to understand, but it does take a lot more practice and effort than most students want to put in. Have you heard that some people tend to lean on the creative side and others indulge in spreadsheets?
There are fundamental differences in how our brains work that contribute to the idea that there are right-brain thinkers (creatives) and left-brain thinkers (analytics). For left-brain thinkers, the logic and sequence of mathematics come easier. For right-brain thinkers, math is challenging to say the least. Here are some tips to make it a little less painful.
Change the Attitude
The biggest roadblock to success in math class is more about attitude than skill. Working through math problems takes consistent effort, and human beings are programmed to take the path of least resistance, so if it takes effort, it is hard.
This attitude towards mathematics serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If students think that the work is too hard, they will put in minimum effort and build minimum skill. And because mathematics is cumulative, students advance through math courses without building a strong foundation which leads to inevitable failure at higher levels.
If you can change the students’ perception of mathematics early, you can help them build the confidence to develop a strong work ethic.
Manage the Workload
Learning and retaining mathematics takes a lot of repetitive practice. Unfortunately, students can easily become overworked, burnt out, and disengaged. Aim to strike a balance between assigning enough practice without overdoing it. Twenty minutes of practice problems is a good number. Consider moving through the material at a slower pace in order to maintain balance and build strong foundations.
Supervise Practice Problems
The tricky thing about mathematics is that misconceptions or misapplied rules happen frequently, and learners don’t know that they are wandering down the wrong path. Develop good habits by assigning practice work during class so that you can supervise students as they practice new skills.
Make Meaningful Connections
The biggest problem with teaching algebra is that students have a difficult time making a real-world connection to equations that include alpha values. And many textbooks don’t help make it any more relatable with ill-conceived story problems about birthday cakes and turtles. Try to draw parallels to real-life examples as much as possible. If students see the work as meaningful, they are more likely to engage.
Use Appropriate Tools
Encourage students to work out problems visually using graph paper, manipulatives, or calculators. Mathematics concepts can be abstract to new learners, and teaching with the right tools can help the brain make sense of new information. Not only do manipulatives provide a hands-on way to learn, but they also add variety to an otherwise boring subject. Using the right tools helps keep learners engaged and participating.
How to Make Math Less Challenging