For many students, math typically falls at the bottom in terms of preferred subjects. Numbers seldom have meaning beyond a classroom and word problems, which are intended to provide context, only confuse and frustrate the learner.

After years of consistent struggle, one can’t blame a child for lacking confidence or feeling anxious. The seemingly impossible task of catching up only grows each day. This frustration adds to the reality of the self-concept that, “Math is hard and I have every reason to resent it.”

When given the opportunity to create a classroom, I only had one goal in mind for every student, to help them understand that math can be fun. With this as my guiding principle, I focus on the delivery as much as on the concepts in order to keep my students interested.

When it really comes down to it, all the content in the world doesn’t matter if they aren’t invested in learning it, which results in a classroom that looks a bit unusual.

Stepping into the classroom on any given day might reveal:

  • no pencils in sight
  • dice clattering across the floor
  • intensely focused opponents battling it out over board games
  • basketball hoops & score boards
  • fake money rapidly changing hands
  • balloons floating through the air
  • a movie set at the ready for a stop animation film

What this controlled chaos provides, is an environment where students are actively engaging with math in a way that is enjoyable and practical.  By exposing them to games where score needs to be kept and fake money needs to be counted, they aren’t immediately scared off by the subject matter, because they may not even realize they are practicing math skills.

When they return to their more traditional classrooms, they can build on their newly acquired foundational skills and not immediately resist simply based on the subject matter. As their excitement for math grows, they are more open to the idea that math isn’t a subject in school but rather language they speak in all aspects of their daily life.

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©2016, The Episcopal Center for Children
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