Joyanne Alba October 21, 2020 Worksheet

Some students are unable to access tools that many of us take for granted when they try to complete worksheets. They may be unable to grasp pencils, control their movements within the limited spaces provided on the sheet, or be able to simply stabilize their paper while writing. Other students, including those for whom English is not their primary language or who struggle with reading, have difficulty reading the directions, words, and math terminology on the worksheets. Still other students require different visual representations or methods of engagement in order acquire an understanding the content. Most math worksheets do not provide information in multiple formats so they are inaccessible to students with a wide variety of learning styles and abilities. Well-designed technology can provide these students with access to excellent content. For example, these fractions tools and supplemental curriculum allow students with physical disabilities to access fractions content using a variety of assistive technology devices. Instructions, prompts and feedback can be read aloud, while visual models, cues combined with sounds support a wide range of learning styles and abilities.

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.

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.

This issue of NOT practicing mistakes is extremely important. Parents shouldn’t give worksheets as busy work and teachers should only use them if you are going to have a non-math teacher substitute. White boards with supervision are always a better way to practice skills. If you need some time to do chores, your child will get much more benefit by helping you with the chores. And maybe you can work in a little discussion of numbers or counting while you do chores together.

Another important point I keep in mind is that I never want this regular math review time to take up and hour of class time. I want it to be quick but effective. This is not instructional time, but time for the students to review material they have already learned. In my 5th grade classroom, we use a math review series that’s engaging and entertaining at the same time. In essence they are simply halfpage handouts with ten standards based math problems woven into a special picture or exciting scene. Remember, I want to keep the math review time quick, but effective.

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.

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