Elaine Yousra January 12, 2021 Worksheet
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.
Teachers are actually doing their best to educate children. The problems with education aren’t so much on the level of teachers as with the institution as a whole. It’s kind of like the state of communications in our country before the deregulation of the telephone companies. Before deregulation, one and only one advancement–the touch tone phone. After deregulation, well you have cell phones, the Internet, instant messaging, you name it! What dedicated teachers and parents need to do is to supplement public school instruction with strategies that work, that have always worked, to get kids to really master the fundamental skills of elementary math.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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