Leading math instruction with deeper questions can boost student interest

Dive Brief:

  • Students are more engaged when teachers ask “what, why and how” questions during math lessons, 9th grade special education teacher Rachel Fuhrman writes for Edutopia.
  • Fuhrman says when students have to justify their mathematical steps, it helps develop a deeper understanding of the concepts by requiring closer engagement with them.
  • The practice of “cold calling” on students also keeps them engaged because they know they might have to answer a question at any moment. 

Dive Insight:

Engaging students through question-based teaching strategies could improve their math confidence, as well as their mindset and connection to the material. In a study, researchers found mindset plays a big factor in math success, so students who don’t consider themselves “math people” often lose the motivation to ask questions and engage in class.

“Catalyzing Change,” a publication from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, shows a student’s grasp of math at age 5 predicts later success in the subject as well as other academic areas. Among recommendations are broadening the purpose of math, focusing on equity early in a student’s learning career, and implementing strategies to level the playing field when students are young.

When students make personal connections to math, they better understand it, according to English teacher Amy Schwartzbach-Kang, who co-taught trigonometry and had students write backstories for the math problems they were solving. The method reportedly led to greater interest in the subject. 

With spring school closures possibly leaving students up to as much as a year behind in math, engaging and effective math teaching strategies will be critical this school year. An analysis from Illuminate Education expects math learning loss to be highest among the K-5 age group. The report recommends educators plan a “multi-tiered system of supports” to address learning gaps, including fall screenings and more time spent on math and reading to help bridge the divide.

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