Teaching Math: Give up Believing in the "Magic Math Bullet".

It’s a new year! Here in the north west of British Columbia, we are at that time in the school year when the first 4 months have passed. Some of our math students are right on track with the curriculum, some are getting it, and others are struggling. This is the group I’ve made it my mission to help: those students who are struggling with math or those learning math for the first time.

 Once again, it has inspired me to wade into the beginning of a new year with some tips to become successful teaching basic math skills. You don’t always need to add more things — sometimes you need to give some of them up.

Give Up Believing in the “Magic Math Bullet.”

An old Chinese proverb says,  “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

Yes, it’s true! No matter how much you hope for the one new idea, math worksheet or online math software that will help your struggling students finally “grasp and remember” the math they’ve been toiling with over and over again, it’s probably not going to happen without a solid plan and ongoing practice.

Hey, I know. I’ve been there! I remember teaching my students math tricks that I used myself. I thought they were clever and easy to use. That was my first mistake. In my enthusiasm to help out, I didn’t make certain that my student had the solid underlying math concepts to understand and use the nifty strategy I was trying to teach.

Then there are the snappy new worksheets. In the past, I purchased books of them thinking maybe there was a magical idea in them, or if nothing else, the worksheets would be colorful and fascinating enough to motivate my student toward new learning. But it often wasn’t so.

The wish for overnight transformation is like a fairy tale. It has an inspirational plot, some drama and a successful resolution. It goes like this….

My student couldn’t ---------!

He was really struggling and discouraged with ……!

Then we found …………..!

And overnight, he was transformed into --- a budding mathematician?

That scenario is not too likely. At least not in my experience.

Let’s face it. I can be a perfectionist at times.

However, when I’ve tried every strategy and trick I know to teach a student the basics of math and it’s not working, I know it’s time to look at a sustainable ongoing plan. Successful teachers know that making small continuous improvements every day will be compounded over time and give them desired results.

That is why I suggest that you plan for the future, but focus on the lesson that’s ahead of you, and help your student improve just 1% every day. Each small increment of improvement and change will lead to success in the long term.

Learn more about Multisensory OG Math and Math at Prospect Centre.