Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rethinking Math Instruction

As a former Math teacher, this is one area of instructional leadership that especially interests me. I have recently started to engage some of our math teachers in discussions regarding how we teach math to 21st Century students. In many cases, it appears easier for an English, Social Studies, Science or any other discipline teacher to frame their lessons around 21st Century Skills -- i.e. using Digital Storytelling seems natural in English, but one must be a little more creative to apply this skill to Mathematics.

Like all teachers, math instructors are sometimes surprised at their students' lack of enthusiasm for their content. Math teacher Dan Meyer describes in his TED talk (March 6, 2010) what it is like being a Math teacher passionate about your content:

In her recent post "Math Class Doesn't Have to Suck - Help for Not Very Good Math Teachers", Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) blogged about this very topic. She writes: "What I did learn is that the way we teach math in the U.S. sucks about as much as the way we teach language, but that's fodder for another post." Included are many links to some interesting math concepts and ideas for classroom use.

Ultimately, making math instruction relevant, applicable and interesting doesn't require a great deal of flashy entertainment. We simply must think about what will engage students. In addition, math instruction should focus on teaching students critical thinking skills -- not rote memorization and the ability to model one problem to solve another (as we so often assign for homework!).

So what are your thoughts? What is the ideal math lesson in your mind?


  1. Thanks for this post on maths instruction. I teach computer studies and accounting and there are figures in there. I find with accounting, students get bored easily with constantly completing exercises from their textbook. I need to use visuals, games (when and if I possibly can) and use real life examples and problems to solve. Mathletics was subscribed to in our school for maths in 2010. This resource is online and students end up working with or playing against others across the world. I am not sure what the feedback was as a result. Have you used this resource?

  2. Murcha --

    Thanks for commenting! I have not tried mathletics before. Great to hear that you have tried using games and visuals. Which have you found most effective?

  3. I am fairly new to the teaching world so I am always open to new ideas. I teach math to special education students in grades 8 and 9. Recently I found out about a Glog. I made up a math glog for geometry and am hoping to engage the students with this idea for the key concepts. I find interactive power points with random Star Wars figures embedded in them to keep their attention and get them to take notes. I agree with murcha in using games and visuals. Also for those with poor memory recall, I have downloaded math tunes on itunes to help them remember certain rules/ properties!

  4. Jenn --

    Check out these cool math videos:

    "Teach me how to factor"

    "Gettin' Triggy Wit It"

    "Why Math"