How To Teach Elementary Math: Advice and Instructions

Teaching math to elementary students can be challenging. The tips and directions outlined here can help your students rethink their attitudes towards math and make classroom learning more enjoyable.

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Teaching Tips for Elementary Math

Objectives

Some basic teaching philosophies can help you succeed in teaching math. First, use a variety of methods to meet different learning styles, such as visual, audio and kinesthetic. However, no matter how fun you can make a class, students still need to know basic math facts, like the multiplication tables, which may best be memorized through rote learning and drilling.

Don't advance to a new concept until students have a grasp on the current topic. For example, don't explain 'carrying over' until they understand place values. Only teach subtraction once your students understand addition and know the addition table. Build on skills that your students have mastered in order to help them gain confidence.

Include activities that show students practical uses of math. Children may understand a mathematical concept if it's relevant to their daily lives. For example, an exercise involving money can illustrate why we need math.

Use methods like cooperative learning only if they help the student's progress. You're the teacher; children have a hard time teaching themselves or helping one another if they can't do the math themselves.

Methods

No single approach to presenting or practicing a new math fact will be helpful to every student. Use a variety of ways to communicate each math concept.

If you use multiple methods to reinforce a lesson, be clear about tying the concepts together. For instance, one class learned a catchy song that taught many math facts with examples for each. The class could sing the song without a hitch, even singing it for other classes. The teacher assumed the children would make the logical connection between the song and what they were learning in class, so she never referred to the song when teaching those concepts. However, not one student made the connection, and remembering those math facts was just as hard for them as ever.

Show how every fun presentation of a math fact applies to the lesson. Here are creative ways to present math facts.

Music
songs to present a new fact or aid retention
Manipulatives
base-10 rods and blocks or Cuisenaire rods, dried beans, egg cartons, beads, candy, restaurant menus, toy cash registers, play money and art supplies that can be used to physically demonstrate a new concept
Stories, poems and drama
read aloud by you, silently by the students or quietly in small groups; written by the students; acted out as plays
Art and illustrations
pictures of stories, songs, manipulatives and decorative 'fonts' for writing math sentences
Games
computer games, board games and pen-and-pencil games
Practice and rote learning
flash cards, timed worksheets and word problems
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