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3 Ways to Make Teaching Math Fun and Easy

Nov 30, 2017

by Chad Boender, Kindergarten Teacher, M.A.Ed.

Become legendary in your school for making math fun and easy.

When you ask a student what they think about math, typical responses likely include "I hate it," "It's boring," or "It's too hard." I know these negative associations all too well because I struggled with math as a child. As a visual and hands-on learner, I felt like a lot of my teachers didn't present mathematical concepts in a way that I was able to understand. This, along with my experience as a kindergarten teacher, has fostered a love of teaching math. If you want to make teaching math fun and easy, try these three approaches.

1. Use Modeling and Student Names

Using a student's name in a math problem is an effective way to keep your class engaged. When teaching subtraction in my kindergarten classroom, I always come up with silly stories to entice my students. I randomly choose a child in my class to include in each example. Sometimes, choosing a student who has a difficult time staying attentive can be a very effective strategy. I may say, "Jenny bought five pieces of candy from the store." Right away, I have Jenny's attention—along with all the students who love candy. I continue, "Jenny gives Abigail three pieces of her candy, so how many pieces of candy does Jenny have left?"

The answer to this story problem might seem logical for many students. However, some of my students need a visual aid, so I grab five pieces of candy and we act out the problem. We then repeat the problem again, and I have my students draw it on a piece of paper. Every concept that's taught should have meaning and relevancy in the real world and in your students' lives.

2. Build Character through Competition

Some may think of competition as a bad teaching tool because of the pressure it places on students. However, competition in the classroom can lead to enhanced student engagement, while also fostering a love of learning. As a teacher, being transparent with students about the nature of competition is important. Teaching math through competition is an especially great way to get students excited about learning. Every day, my class participates in a timed competition to practice. The class competes to see who can solve the most addition facts in one minute, and the student(s) who completes the most addition facts is crowned the Mathematician of the Day.

Sometimes I think my students are more excited about the prize than the actual competition, but who wouldn't be excited for a brand-new, sharp pencil or a shiny, embossed certificate with your name written in the finest teacher handwriting? I just always make sure to remind my students that it's not always possible to win, that it's OK to make mistakes, and that being happy for the winner feels good.

3. Entice Learners with Games

Games are a fun and engaging way to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom. Often, students are having so much fun that they don't even know they're learning. For instance, Math Attack is one of my favorite games to play with my kindergarten class to improve addition and subtraction. Students are split into teams and given a variety of resources (manipulatives, a whiteboard and markers, a pencil and paper, etc.) to help them solve problems. I flash a problem on our document camera for five seconds and students must work together to solve the problem using the resources provided. The first team that gets the correct answer receives two points and the other teams that get the answer correct receive one point. This game is not only a great way to teach your students but it pushes them to work together as a team.

Keeping these tips in mind the next time you plan a lesson or activity for your students can help you push your class to love math. Don't be surprised if your class is suddenly looking forward to math time because you've successfully made learning more meaningful.

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