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Why do kids hate math?
Many of us have been there: You transition into your math block to a class full of groans. You ask yourself, “How did I get here? Why do my students hate math?” After many years of teaching math to lots of different grade levels, I have a few explanations and some ideas on how to encourage your students to love math.
It’s my opinion that math is over tested. Instead of monitoring individual student progress, we’re giving formal tests every 3-5 days, unit tests every semester, and a standardized test at the end of the year. This is setting many students up for failure. Students that are able to use math creatively don’t do well on these assessments. We’re losing those students that think outside the box when we’re grading them off of a standardized assessment. I like to assess students based on project-based learning, math portfolios, and individual progress. Check out my blog post on fair grading practices.
What’s the point?
When we teach with random math problems and a large amount of inflexible worksheets, Math loses credibility. Students don’t see the connection between the math they’re practicing and real life. We need to give students projects to work on that incorporate math into their own lives. For example, planning Thanksgiving dinner uses a lot of great decimal, fraction, and measurement skills.
When you’re planning each math lesson, ask yourself where you see these skills in your life and the lives of your students. Use that connection to interest students and give them a purpose for learning the math.
Math is hard.
Students may come to your class already believing that math is hard. They may have heard it from friends and family, or experienced it themselves when given a task above their ability level. They may not have the perseverance needed to solve a complex math problem. This can be fixed with multi-step problems, group collaboration, and teacher modeling.
Some students fall behind.
In my experience, students that fall behind fall further behind each year. They’re expected to work on grade level when their ability level isn’t there yet. Individualized instruction is so important when students are learning math. It’s not an easy task for teachers when our classrooms continue to grow each year (35 kindergarteners… really?!). There are simple ways to identify ability levels and work with individual students at the correct level.
Small groups allow you to work on key skills to help students “catch up”. Some students may not ever catch up… and that’s ok. Your main goals should be helping students to improve their math skills and to learn to enjoy math. Have students work on project-based learning during small group time.
Use modifications to help students. I’m fully aware that calculators aren’t allowed on most standardized tests, but they are allowed (and on every smart phone) in real-life. Preparing students for real-life is a million times more important to me than preparing them for a standardized test.
Give your students a break.
Let your students play with math. Use math as a reward by using card games and board games in your classroom. Math should never be just business. It should be something fun that your students can LOVE!