Who said equations can't equal fun?
Math instruction has changed little since teachers were in school: Lessons are still rife with memorization, columns of figures and word problems that often fail to spark many students.
Teachers are now trying to approach these lessons differently in an attempt to make them “vibrant, creative, meaningful and fun,” writes elementary school teacher Justin Minkel in EdWeek. Notable efforts to get students doing things that feel like play and rewire their thought process around numbers include challenging students to make a parachute for a gummy bear or build a tower with straws.
Basic math skills are an integral part of daily life, whether that’s buying groceries for dinner or leaving a tip after a restaurant meal, and by breaking away from the dusty tropes of math sheets and bringing some excitement to figures and numbers, teachers can help students avoid a future fear of math.
Some students may brag they never touched their algebra after leaving school. But it’s hard to imagine a successful life that doesn’t include numbers. Yet students who experience dry math lessons that bore them to distraction are hamstrung. Calculating whether you can afford a mortgage payment requires more than basic addition. Helping students find basic math skills as exciting as Snapchat is the challenge.
One way to combat this math malaise is to bring some creativity to the subject. That’s Jo Boaler’s mission. A professor of mathematics at Stanford University, Boaler launched youcubed, an online site that includes free games like tic-tac-toe with virtual marbles, which indirectly teaches students about arrays.
Teacher Advisor With Watson, is another site linking educators with K-5 lesson plans, videos and games that focus on math concepts. Apps, too, can bring some animation and color to math lessons, such as Mystery Math Town, highly-rated by Common Sense Media, that sends K-2 students searching for clues as they solve basic math problems.
Not every student will choose a career that involves solving quadratic equations. But math teachers hope to leave students with the ability to calculate how much of each paycheck is deposited into their 401k. Overhauling math classes, even one lesson at a time, is where curriculum directors can start.