Angelina Elisabeth November 19, 2020 Worksheet
For parents, printable math worksheets are a great tool for drilling their own kids in those same skills. Make no mistake, printable math worksheets are not a relic from the past that needs to stay buried. They are useful, focused tools for the classroom or at home. You can find resources all over the web for worksheets. Finding answers for worksheets, however, is not that easy. For that you often have to use paid subscription services.
Great, fun and free math worksheets should be able to present a mathematical problem in different ways. Math is after all nothing more than a numeric expression of some of life’s simplest questions: How much money do I have left if I buy a soda? By the end of the week, how much of my daily allowance will I be able to save if I don’t? When a child learns to relate math to everyday questions, he will be great at it from the simplest addition all the way to trigonometry. To convert percentages, decimals and fractions is thus one essential skill. How much of an apple pie has been eaten? The answer to this question can be expressed in percentages, 50%; or in decimals, 0.5; or in fraction, ½. In other words, half of mom’s delicious apple pie is gone. How many kids in school have done their homework? Again this can be answered in several ways: in percentages, 70%; or in ratio, 7:10; Both of these mean out of ten kids in class there are seven good ones who did and three not-so-good ones who didn’t. The bottom line is that kids learn math much better when it makes sense.
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.
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.
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.
As a parent, I’m very aware of what my own children are learning in school. For the most part, I’ve been happy with their progress, but as they rise in grade level, I’m starting to see more emphasis on a loose understanding of the concepts and less emphasis on skills–particularly skills with arithmetic of fractions. The main problem with what I see with my students and my own children is that kids are taught ”concepts” and are not taught skills–unless they’re lucky enough to have a teacher who knows better. Most particularly, children are not taught mastery of arithmetic with fractions. Unfortunately, virtually all of their future math education depends on being able to do fractional arithmetic.
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