Teaching Third Grade Math: Methods and Strategies

Strategies for teaching any elementary grade will have a lot of overlap, although students in each grade typically have characteristics and needs that are somewhat unique to that age. Your teaching arsenal needs to include tactics and methods that will be suitable for your students. Here are some ideas for teaching math to third graders.

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What Are Some Useful Approaches for Teaching Math to Third Graders?

Understand Common Traits among Third Grade Students

Before you begin teaching third grade, you need to understand what characteristics are typical of students in this age group. Of course, each student is unique, but knowing what you might expect will help you plan how to conduct your lessons.

Third graders generally like school. They can be full of energy and enthusiastic about pretty much anything you want them to do. However, their attention spans tend to be short, and they may tire quickly. This can lead to projects or assignments that are begun but not finished, but you may be able to keep them engaged for some activities. They may listen well, but their active minds have lots of ideas that may impede their memory of what you said.

The good news is third graders typically love to talk about their ideas. They are usually interested in how things work. Your students may be pretty good at using manipulatives to demonstrate their knowledge. Third graders also have a tendency to like group work.

Use Tactics that Work with Students' Characteristics

You'll want to choose teaching strategies to match the typical third grade traits, although you should be prepared to adjust your methods according to the needs of your class. As always, be ready to offer guidance and encouragement to your students when needed. The following are possible strategies for teaching math to your students.

  1. Use fun ways to introduce concepts by reading books such as The Grapes of Math or Math for All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles by Greg Tang.
  2. Include movement as part of a lesson, such as activities that require standing, sitting, bending and so on. For example, you can ask students to act out story problems.
  3. Assign several shorter projects instead of a few longer ones, and break each assignment into smaller chunks to help students stay focused. Have students work in groups when you're doing in-class projects.
  4. Start with a 10-15 minute mini-lesson and spend the rest of the time letting kids practice the math concept with manipulatives.
  5. Use math centers a couple of times a week. Kids in independent math centers can complete worksheets and other activities. They can share what they have learned or solve problems with other students.
  6. Sing songs and chant rhymes to express topics and procedures. Encourage the children to make up their own.
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