Courtney Carla November 29, 2020 Worksheet
Many people believe that you have to have a knack for math in order to do well in it. However, understanding the basic principles of math does not need any innate talent, or a genius intellect. What
Math worksheets rarely ask students to think critically or creatively. They usually present multiple examples of the same problem type with the hope of reinforcing a skill or procedure. They do not challenge students to use higher order thinking skills such as comparing, analyzing, deducing, and synthesizing. These skills are built through activities in which students discover concepts, explore ideas, test a hypothesis, solve a problem, and discuss their thinking with their peers. Exploring concepts and problems in many different ways builds interest and promotes critical thinking.
Numerous research studies have found that when students are actively engaged with the content, they have a much better chance of understanding and remembering what they have learned. Unfortunately, math worksheets tend to bore most students, especially those who need the most help in math. Engagement entails much more than rote repetition of a procedure. Math worksheets tend to present very similar problem types over and over, leading to mundane practice of disassociated skills. For students who understand the material and successfully complete an assignment, another worksheet becomes meaningless. On the other hand, for the students who don’t understand the material, an alternative method of instruction is what’s needed. Another worksheet simply adds to the student’s frustration, or worse, contributes to a belief that ”I’ll never understand math.” A cute image or a ”fill-in-the-blanks” riddle does nothing to increase engagement or learning (and let’s face it, those riddles are not funny!). Instead, teachers need to increase engagement by providing students with exercises in which they discover patterns and relationships, solve problems, or think creatively about math relationships.
There are some new materials being developed now based on what we are learning about how the brain learns. These brain-friendly materials should be an improvement over what has existed. I recently bought a book by Marcia L. Tate titled ”Mathematics Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.” I highly recommend her book. She gives a great deal of information on alternative activities that are better for your child’s brain development and for learning.
I remember that with my Mom everything was somehow connected to math. She made me count the buttons in my shirt as she dressed me up, asked questions that demanded answers that are related to sums, like how many pair of shoes do you have? How many buttons are there on your Daddy’s shirt? Count all the furniture in the living room and several math games. All my toys were one way or the other math related. I had puzzles, and tons of things Mom had me do as games on daily basis at home to get me ready for kindergarten! In fact, she continued guiding me towards being math friendly throughout kindergarten and first grade during which time 1st grade math worksheets was my constant companion. Practice surely makes perfect and I am very gratefully to Mom for taking her time to familiarize me with math even as a child.
Therefore creativity is a must for worksheets to be successful. Regardless if you are trying to review math, science, reading, writing, health, or social studies, your goal should always be to try and create something that will generate desire in the students to actually want to do it. If you can do this, the battle is practically over already. For example, since I want to make sure my students get accustomed to reviewing the various math concepts and standards we’ve learned all year, I have them practice regularly. I want them to get to a point where they are so familiar with grade level math content, that solving these types of problems becomes automatic. However, caution must be taken into account when review is repeatedly covered in your classroom. You do not want your students to become bored or frustrated with the repetition.
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