Learning Math Can Be a Creative Experience


Professor Jo Boaler teaches at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and is the CEO and co-founder of www.YouCubed.com , a site that offers a wide variety of math-education resources and tools for teachers, parents, and students.  Professor Boaler, who has dedicated her professional life to making math appealing and beautiful to young students writes:

 “We urgently need to free our young people from the crippling ideas that they cannot fail, that they cannot mess up, that only some students can be good at math, and that success should be easy and fast, and not involve effort.  We need to introduce students to creative, beautiful mathematics that allows them to ask questions that have to be asked, and to think of ideas that go against traditional and imaginary boundaries.”

Unfortunately, traditional math instructional methods have been all about memorizing tables and procedures, which tends to make kids think that math is different and separate from all other subjects or that math is somehow more “boring” or “pointless” than Internet technology classes or anything else they are required to study.  Sadly, math has been boiled down to performing on tests and correctly answering questions when you’re called on in class rather than learning that math is a part of everything in life.  “The narrowness of the mathematics taught in schools is one of the reasons so many students disengage from mathematics.  One-dimensional mathematics is not the mathematics of the world and it is not the mathematics of our 21st-century workplace.”  (https://www.youcubed.org/open-creative-mathematics )

The overwhelming “testing culture” that is much more a part of math instruction than it is any other study area, is a large part of the problem when it comes to getting young students interested and engaged in mathematics.

 

5 IDEAS TO HELP KIDS LOVE MATH

A quick Internet search reveals a variety of math teachers who are writing about their teaching experience and offering tips and examples of how to help students enjoy a creative approach to learning math.  Some of the best examples include:

  1. Create a math scavenger hunt – Kids love scavenger hunts. Make math problems the clues for your hunt.  Kids have to solve the problems and give the correct answers before they can move to the next clue.
  2. For younger students, make the “math flash card” experience more fun. Flip up two answers to the problem and have the kids shine a flashlight on the correct answer.
  3. Use dice to practice adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing using the numbers rolled on the dice.
  4. Use technology – Use a digital camera to record student’s math problem solving as they work, then use the pictures to stimulate discussions about how to make math lessons more interesting and fun.
  5. For K-8 kids, create songs using math problems – Kids learn almost anything better and more quickly if they can set it to music. Find appropriate songs and videos online that help make math learning fun or encourage your kids to write their own math songs.  (Be sure to check out https://www.education.com/songs/math/ and https://numberock.com/ )

If your online or homeschool student thinks they totally HATE math, Eddie Woo’s website https://wootube.mathspace.co/ provides great online videos of Mr. Woo teaching math in fun and interactive ways that explain math in easy to understand terms.  Eddie Woo is an award-winning math teacher and head of mathematics at Cherrybrook Technology High School in Sydney, New South Wales.  The New South Wales government has named him as “super teacher” and has given him the official title of “leader of innovation for math teaching.”  Eddie has recently been awarded the 2018 Local Hero of the Year award, which takes place as part of the awards ceremony for Australia Day.  Mr. Woo records all of his math lectures and puts them online for every student, teacher, and parent to access.  Lessons are structured so that students can pause, rewind, skip or review any part of a lesson that they find to be interesting or relevant.  Mr. Woo’s channel has been watched for over three million minutes, which he says is “equivalent to teaching classroom students for more than 60 years.” Mr. Woo also offers WooTube2 for teachers, which is a site focused on “promoting motivation and engagement in secondary mathematics classrooms.”

Also – if you’re a homeschool teacher/parent, go to Pinterest and other sites that offer free math-based lessons.  If you’re looking for an excellent selection of math curriculums to use in your homeschool or with your school-at-home student, a great source with a wide variety of math options for all grade levels is www.globalstudentnetwork.com .  If you’re interested in enrolling your student in grade-level math classes or a fully online school experience, be sure to visit www.internationalvla.com.

There’s no reason for your student to be anxious about learning math. The creative methods and ideas outlined in this article are just the beginning of what is available online. Technology-based resources can be used to make math learning a creative experience that can build a student’s confidence and help them excel.  With a little research and extra effort, it is possible to teach kids that math can be a source of enthusiasm and fun.