According to Mickey Mouse, “Arithmetic is being able to count up to 20 without taking off your shoes!” A great strategy for teaching math is beginning with the concrete, but to become successful we must move through pictorial to the abstract. Let me share some great strategies for moving forward to the abstract: Teach students how to organize their calculations.
- Use graph paper or turn the lined paper sideways to keep numbers in a column.
- Use highlighters to highlight key words, instructions or steps.
- Label everything.
- Give explicit instructions.
- For struggling students, write out the steps before beginning the work. For example, when I teach students long division I write out each of these steps:
- Bring Down
- Begin Again
Students who struggle with order should touch and say each step just before they perform the action. This keeps them on track and helps them not to become overwhelmed. The last strategy is to bridge or apply math skills to everyday situations. If you are teaching about percentages help students discover ways they will use that information, such as calculating how much a game will cost when it is 15% off or how to calculate a 10% tithe on their allowance. Instead of just transferring knowledge, teach strategies they can build on and use to learn something new.