Ninette Oriane January 12, 2021 Worksheet
No matter what materials you choose, it is most important that you supervise your child constantly so that mistakes get caught rather than practiced. I learned this particular lesson the hard way. When my daughter was young, she did something that needed ”attention.” I no longer remember what it was that she did, but I told her to write the sentence ”I will not disobey my parents again” 50 times. I should have known better, but I didn’t check on her at the beginning and then I got busy. So, sometime later, she brought me 50 sentences of ”I will not disobey my parents agen.” She had just practiced misspelling ”again” as ”agen” — 50 times! I’m not certain that we ever really got that fixed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most teachers are familiar with the long delay between when students complete a worksheet, and when they get their correct page. Most don’t get anything back until the next day or the next week. In the meantime, the students continue to practice incorrectly. It’s no surprise that immediate feedback has been shown to increase student performance and diligence. Unfortunately, math worksheets have no mechanism for keeping a student from moving to the next problem until after they demonstrate understanding. Good curriculum software can address this issue by giving students instant responses and strategic feedback. The use of visual cues and auditory feedback helps students quickly recognize their fraction errors and self-correct. This just-in-time feedback system eliminates practicing incorrectly, while promoting self-correction and independence.
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