Math Teaching Tips

5 Way To Make Math Fun

In this video we give you five quick ideas to help put smiles on the faces in your math classes. Play video

1. Shopping Games - Students love to buy things. What a great way to learn math facts quickly and with purpose.

2. Create Math Projects That Relate Locally - Pulling a students' everyday life into the classroom makes a big difference.

3. Make Word Problems With Things That Hit Home - For example you could include the names of students in the class, current movies, current bands, and pop icons. Kids will take notice.

4. Get Them Moving - Use a tactile approach to learn math as much as possible. Also include activities that require students to gather their own data. Come up with fun physical challenges.

5. Use Technology - There are tons of math games online available. Include spreadsheets and their use in your projects as much as possible. Don't be afraid to create or use a great web quest.

Teaching Idea

Practice in Addition
Janine, Elementary Inclusion Teacher: Eugena, Oregon

"This idea can be used for developing skills in adding. One at time, read the following directions to students and ask that they calculate their responses on paper:

1) Choose a number between 10 and 100.
2) Add 95.
3) Cross off the numeral in the hundred's place.
4) Add the digit you crossed off.
5) Add 4.
6) The resulting number should be your original number that you started with. For example: 88+95=183; Remove the 1 from the hundred's place; you are left with 83+1=84; add 4=88! For real challenge, ask students why this happens."

Teaching Idea

Exploring Geometry
Paul, Junior High School Teacher: Rock Springs, Wyoming

"Ask your students to list five reasons to study geometry. Ask them to then list ten jobs that require knowledge of geometry. Once all responses are offered, ask students to create geometry problems that are encountered in every day life situations. Use this as a basis for introducing concepts related to geometry and ask students to continue to contribute ideas about the practical use of geometry...make sure you discuss those ideas that students come up with."

Teaching Idea

Looking for Shapes
Colleen, Primary Grade Teacher: Peoria, Illinois

"Provide children with a pad and pencil. Take a walk outside around the school, the play ground, or areas near by looking for objects in which circles, triangles, or squares are visible. Ask children to sketch the objects that they notice and that they are particularly interested in. When you return to the classroom, ask children to draw one of the objects they sketched, then paint it or color it. Ask them to outline the shape or shapes in the drawing and label whether it is a circle, triangle or square. Let the children discuss their findings either in pairs or in a small group. Display their work."

Teaching Idea

Relationships and Patterns
Jackie, 5th Grade Teacher: Madison, Wisconsin

"Write the beginning of a number pattern on the board. Example: 18, 15, 12, ___, ___, ___, Call on students to name each succeeding number. Remind students that if they look at the first two numerals, they can determine what happened between them. You can guide them by asking them if the second number is larger or smaller? How much larger or smaller? Which math operation was used to make it larger or smaller? Then ask them to write the resulting answer between each pair of two numbers. Once they discover the pattern, ask them to create their own patterns and share them with a partner."

Teaching Idea

Multiplication Mania
Lindsay Fuiles, Grade 4 Teacher

This activity can be adapted to just about any subject area. I have all the students move their seats so that they are all facing directly to the front. I then have a student walk around the room and stand next to one of the other student's chairs. Both students stand up and are asked a multiplication problem. Who ever gets the problem correct first moves on to the next chair and gets a point. The other student sits down. We keep a tally of the number of wins of each student. The kids really like this activity.

Teaching Idea

Holiday Graphing
Mike Ray, Math Teacher

"The holidays are the best time to get kids to relate the skill of graphing to their lives. I always come up with scenarios and as a class we decide which graph type would be best to describe to their data. Here are some of the scenarios I use:

  1. What are our favorite holiday treats?
  2. What holiday do we celebrate in December?
  3. What is our favorite holiday song?
  4. Where will we spend our holiday?"

Teaching Idea

Money for the Movies
Marus Ballen: Elementary Teacher

"A great way to review and even introduce students to currency is to simulate a day at the movie theater in the classroom. Every student earns "Ballen Bucks" through the week and on Friday we watch a movie. The students must pay for their tickets, candy, pop corn; I also come around with little toys they can purchase. I even give them back improper change to see if they catch me. If they are disruptive during the movie, I charge them tax on all the items they purchase. It makes for great fun and great learning."

Teaching Idea

Using Data That Is Meaningful
Beth, Primary Grade Teacher: Boulder, Colorado

"Children need opportunities to build and construct graphs that can make sense to them. Graphs help children move naturally from concrete toward symbolic representation of data. The best way to do this is to have students involved in collecting data and formulating questions that lead to problem solving. A good way to do this is to have students keep track of the children who are absent each day class is in session. Graph the information on grid paper that is large enough to be displayed. You can use a piece of white formica board to create a grid that can be used over and over again...draw permanent lines for the grid and then use erasable markers to record data. Use the data to help students formulate questions and develop other math skills such as counting (tallying), place value, percentages, comparing and contrasting, etc. You can adapt this to hair color, height, etc."

Teaching Idea

"Prepare to Die!"
Tie Neighbors, 11th Grade Teacher: Los Angles, California

"I try to do as many projects as I can with my AP classes that will challenge them and excite them at the same time. Last year, I had an idea that worked very well. Albeit, you probably don't want to use this project with kids younger than high school age. But, as a project, I had them finance their own funerals.

My students did not only know how much was involved, but they actually took it a step further on their own for extra credit. They actually proved that it's cost to finance a funeral in our part of California, on the average of 22%, costs more to die than be born.

It may seem a little out there to do something like this, but if you have a few kids that you think can handle it, you can review just about every standard that's written in math. We even use some Calculus."

Teaching Idea

"Long Division"
Ned Uterniich, Math Teacher

"When teaching long division, students often forget what to do next after they bring down a number. Even though you post the steps on the board, they will subtract, bring down and then get confused. I've found that if the students learn to immediately draw a new division symbol around the subtracted number and brought-down number, it will remind them to divide as the next step."

Teaching Idea

"Beat The Machine Math!"
Sean Redwodar, Math Teacher

"This game really works for just about any subject. I tell my students to buy a voice tape recorder at the begging of the year. I then have students take a stack of flashcards and read them into the recorder. There should be a pause between the problem and the answer of about 5-7 seconds.

As an example, "3 x 2 = (5 sec. pause) 6."

When students go through all the cards, they should then play back the tape and compete against the tape recorder. If they get the answer right, they get one point. If they get it wrong, the recorder gets a point. The object of the game is to shut out the tape recorder."

Teaching Idea

Math "Lunch Passes"
Darlene Roker, Teacher

"After teaching for 20 years, I finally found a fun way to get my students to tell ME that they need to practice their multiples more! I make up a quick "test" where they must write out the multiples for 7-10 numbers, in a scrambled order. Then I present the chart to them 5 minutes before lunch, and tell them they will line up in the order that they finish the "test". The first day I present it, I can hear the slower students talking about how they need to study this number or that, as their faster friends go to lunch first. The second day I have fewer slower students, and by the end of the week, the lunch pass can be used on the next needed skill. And they have fun!"

Teaching Idea

"Twenty-five Positive and Negative Integers"
Kathryn D. Hawley: Instructor

"I have had problems getting my students to "think fast" when it came to adding and subtracting positive and negative integers. Most of my students are "classified" and have very weak math skills. I don't know where the idea originated, but here is how it went:

I bought regular decks of cards. Enough for the students to get into groups of 3-4. At first, they used just the red and black cards. Aces counted as number one. Red cards were negative numbers and the Black were positive numbers. They played the game like "WAR". One card turned over clockwise until the total was "Twenty-five". They started slow, but were very involved after 5 minutes. The more they played, the faster they "added and subtracted". When they got proficient, they added the Face Cards. J = 11 Q = 12 K = 13 "

Teaching Idea

Can Help-Need Help Signs
Lyn Montgomery, 4th Grade Teacher

"My problem was in teaching math lessons. Students who had trouble understanding the lesson, were shy about verbally asking for help. I came up with the idea of red and green lightbulbs. Each child had a set at their desk. During the lesson, to check for understanding, I might ask the students to hold up the green bulb if they understood and the red bulb if they didn't understand the concepts. When time came to practice the skill, if a student was still at a loss, he would place the red bulb in the corner of his desk. That would let me know who needed my help. What seemed to work best was my green bulb people would pair up voluntarily with the red bulb people for private tutoring. It worked because there was no embarrassing raising of the hands. Those that needed help felt more comfortable and my "green bulbers" were delighted to be the "teacher". This was done on an informal basis and the students might be a green bulb one lesson and a red bulb the next."

Teaching Idea

Tired of Tardy Students
Angela Carreira, High School Math Teacher

"I was tired of many of my students being tardy to class. It was a major interruption and although the school has a tough tardy policy, evidently, this isn't enough to stop tardies. So I started what I call the "Bellwork-Tardy Connection". I give all my classes bellwork everyday- a few review math problems. The students hate bellwork. So I told the students that for everyday that no one in their class is tardy, they get to "skip" the bellwork for the following day. This has really helped with tardies and has caused the students to pressure their classmates to be on time!"

Teaching Idea

"Visions of Formulas Dance in our Heads"
Marcia Marrero, Grade 6 Teacher

"When writing the formula for a quadrilateral, A=bxh put a rectangle around the bxh; for a triangle, A= bxh, draw a triangle around bxh divided by 2 and you have a visuals of the formulas so the students do not get them mixed up!"

Teaching Idea

"Candy Jar"
Christy Snider McCormick, Secondary Mathematics

"It is difficult at times to keep students on track. I have a huge canister of candies in my classroom that I give out to students who catch me making a mistake, when doing a math problem. I give out the candy to the first person who catches the mistake. If there is a tie, big's only candy. Anytime I am at the grocery store, I pick up a pack of candy, gum, suckers, etc. You would be surprised at how well the students pay attention. It is a great motivation technique. I have been known to make a mistake or two on purpose."