All too often, maths gets branded a "dull" subject. Particularly if you are a non-specialist, it can be difficult to think of ways to make your maths lessons really come alive.
But there are some simple strategies that I have found work really well to engage even the most reluctant learner. Maths specialist or not, try some of these tips when you are planning your lessons to prove to students that maths is far from “dull”.
- Relate the work to something the class are interested in
I recently taught a Pokémon-themed lesson on calculation. The students picked their favourite characters and found the differences and totals of combat power points, heights, weights etc.
Even if you think that the latest craze is a load of nonsense, it can be worth putting personal opinions aside if it gets your class engaged.
- Teach in bitesize chunks
Particularly with a class that tends to be disengaged, try teaching for a couple of minutes and then sending the students off with a mini exercise. By repeating quick bursts of learning throughout the lesson, the students are kept busy, on-task and focused.
- Give the students answers instead of questions
Providing the answers first can make activities much more open. Instead of giving your class a page full of sums, write some numbers on the board and ask students to work out what the questions could have been. This technique has the added bonus of making differentiation simpler, as children can push themselves to find really tricky questions.
- Try some project-based learning
Ask your students to come up with an idea they’d like to investigate and then challenge them to create their own portfolio of findings. This kind of self-directed project can make students more motivated and make learning feel more rewarding.
When the projects are complete, students can share them with one another to disseminate the knowledge.
- Get things wrong
The first time I tried this was when I made a genuine mistake and one of my pupils politely pointed it out. But I noticed that it made the children eager to spot more errors… so I started making them on purpose.
Neil Jarrett is a Year 6 teacher at an international school in Bangkok. He tweets from @EdtechNeil and his blog is EdTech4Beginners.
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