by Matthew L. Beyranevand, K-12 Mathematics and Science Coordinator, Chelmsford Public Schools:
The best and most effective way to have students stop saying “I’m not good at math” is to approach math with a growth mindset. This blog series will focus on the variety of ways to combat the cultural acceptance of the "I'm not good at math" mentality.
All teachers, especially teachers of math, have struggled to create authentic student interest in the concepts learned in class. Students often go through the motions of the class period because they are required to do so without any genuine interest. This can change by considering adding any of these four suggestions into your classroom:
1. Make It Real
Whenever possible, try to show how the math that the student is learning can be related outside of the classroom. Students want to know the application. The more real-world examples you can share, the more interested your students will be. At times, it is difficult to find real-world examples for all mathematical concepts, especially at the high school level. It is also recommended to then show the students how they will apply the math they learn now to future course work. For example, when learning how to calculate derivatives, you could show that you will eventually use the calculations to graph the derivative of a function. Consider taking the time to share with the students the real-life application and also the future math application of the skills they are learning.
2. Creative Approaches
Everyone knows that not all students learn from the same methods and that they have preferences for the manner in which they solve problems. First, show the class a few different ways to approach a particular problem. Then, encourage individuals or groups of students to work together to find other ways to solve a problem. When going over homework problems, always ask students to share different ways they may have solved the problem. Not only does this increase student interest, but this also deepens their conceptual understanding.
For example, present this problem to an Algebra I or II class. Ask students if they can find six or more ways to come up with the solution: A rectangular garden has an area of 30 feet. One side length is one foot shorter than the other. What is the length of the shorter side?
3. Use Pop Culture
Much of the curriculum and examples in school have little to do with students’ actual interests. While teachers take the time to get to know the students in front of them, taking it a step further by using this knowledge to make the lessons and assignments related to their interests can yield even greater outcomes. It could be about sports and athletes, music and musicians, movies and actors, video games, or whatever else they like. The best part is that preliminary research indicates that using pop culture improves students’ interest in mathematics.
4. Make Math Music Videos!
Whether you are trying to have your students learn a mathematical concept, remember the steps for a formula, or have fun learning the digits of Pi, creating your own math music videos is a great way for students to become more interested in the class and subject. You can change the lyrics to a popular song or make up the music and words for your own song. Research also supports that students making and watching these videos will have more interest in learning math.
Taking math classes is often not a choice or an elective for students; however, teachers should approach it in an engaging way so that students want to learn math. We want students to be genuinely interested in the concepts and application because we know that, With Math, We Can…do anything!
Dr. Matthew Beyranevand is the K-12 Mathematics and Science Coordinator for the Chelmsford, Massachusetts Public Schools. Through his website, http://www.mathwithmatthew.com/ Matthew provides visitors with podcasts, music videos, educational resources, and a video blog. After years as a middle school classroom mathematics teacher, Matthew transitioned into the school administration. He is leading a department of over 80 middle and high school math and science teachers. As a graduate instructor at UMASS Lowell and Fitchburg State University of over thirty semesters of mathematics and education courses, Matthew has become an expert in the best-practice techniques for instructing both new and established teachers.