Dixie Maé November 27, 2020 Worksheet
Have you ever noticed how many K-12 math content websites are devoted to math worksheets? There seems to be an increase in websites that cater to desperate teachers and parents by offering fast, free ”worksheet generation”, ”10 free fractions worksheets,” etc. Now, as a former teacher I am not saying that one should never use math worksheets; however, I do believe that many teachers are using a very superficial method of instruction that relies too much on low-level math worksheets and hands-off instructional approaches. Worksheet lessons move from reading the directions aloud, to doing sample problems as a group, to completing the worksheet independently (or at home with parents), day in and day out.
What are math worksheets and what are they used for? These are math forms that are used by parents and teachers alike to help the young kids learn basic math such as subtraction, addition, multiplication and division. This tool is very important and if you have a small kid and you don’t have a worksheet, then its time you got yourself one or created one for your kid. There are a number of sites over the internet that offer free worksheets that are downloadable and printable for use by parents and teachers at home or at school.
Most of even beginning algebra depends on being able to do two things–one, doing multiplication quickly and accurately in your head, two, knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions. You might remember a concept in algebra called ”factoring.” Factoring means breaking up into parts that are multiplied together to give you the whole. You can factor numbers. For instance, 6 factors into 2 and 3–2×3 =6. In elementary algebra we learn to factor expressions such as x^2+4x+4. This particular expression is easily factorable into (x+2)^2. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just trust me, if you don’t know your multiplication tables, you can’t factor. If you can’t factor, you won’t do well at all in algebra, geometry, or trigonometry.
It is amazing the difference in effort you will get from worksheet to worksheet. Granted the amount of effort may vary immensely from year to year depending on the group of students you have. However for the most part, when a worksheet is needed to help drill down a procedure, standard, or lesson, its effectiveness can and will vary. Therefore it is our job as the teacher to make sure that when we need to utilize a worksheet, we provide the students with one that is as inspiring as can be. Times are different these days. Kids are growing up in a world of microwaves, fast food chains, Nintendo, Wifi, iPads, along with a ton of other technical marvels.
Math worksheets are often assigned as an independent activity, however research indicates that communication and discourse are needed to build a deep understanding of math topics. Students need opportunities to explore mathematical ideas in different ways and to build their own connections. This involves communicating their ideas, listening to the ideas of others, arguing a viewpoint, describing, and explaining. Math worksheets are rarely used as a catalyst for conversation. Instead of assigning worksheets, find activities that encourage discourse, such as ”number talks,” or collaborative group work. During the session, be sure to require students to explain their thinking and listen to the strategies and thinking of their peers. If you are fortunate enough to have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom, using it with interactive math software creates many opportunities for group discussion and student participation. Teachers can can begin by posing problems and modeling approaches, and then ask students to work together to find solutions. Then have them come to the board to demonstrate their solutions in front of the class. These days, many examples of how to teach math concepts on an interactive whiteboard can be found online in the various whiteboard community sites, educational sites, YouTube, etc.
Teaching needs to be more than passing out worksheets. Whether you are the classroom teacher, instructional specialist, or parent, the methods you use greatly impact the level of understanding achieved by your students. Here are five reasons why math worksheets don’t work if you want students to understand math, enjoy math, and think mathematically.
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