05 Nov How Do You Teach Math To Primary School Students?
You Can Start Teaching Math to Primary School Students By:
- Encouraging curiosity and questioning in class
- Ensure conceptual understanding and not procedural compliance
- Build confidence in mathematics
- Be spontaneous questioning
Mathematics is arguably considered the most difficult and stressful subject that primary school students undertake. Not only do students feel agitated, so do their parents when they are confounded by the questions asked.
This has left them scratching their head over the need for teaching math to students between the age of 7 to 13. In particular, why have questions become as “complex” as they are deemed to be?
To understand the need for a high bar in primary school math, we need to first comprehend the usefulness of mathematics for our children.
Mathematics Teaches Kids Many Essential Traits
From a utilitarian standpoint, math is used in our everyday life and thus cannot be avoided. Its application ranges from budgeting in a grocery shopping trip to estimating the time needed to travel from one place to another.
At primary school level, mathematics helps students to perform these activities by making sense of numbers and patterns. Rather than seeing events as random occurrences, they are better able to use logical reasoning to find an underlying connection.
From an intellectual standpoint, mathematics also equips children with problem solving skills, resilience and logic. These attributes carry a child way beyond the classroom and are applicable to just about every experience in his or her live.
Furthermore, it has been proven that students get an emotional high from successfully completing math questions. Each problem can be seen as an obstacle in which the child can take pleasure in solving. With each hurdle crossed, your child gains confidence and is more inclined to tackle even tougher challengers.
Having understood the importance of mathematics to your child, it is now time to discuss a few of the great methods to teaching elementary math.
Encourage Curiosity And Questioning
Kids are naturally curious and inquisitive beings, capable of having a never ending stream of questions on a single topic. The issue is, when placed in a large class, they rarely receive the attention needed to explore the topic being taught.
In fact, a danger arises here where if a child is repeatedly denied the chance to question a concept, then they may lose their natural inquisitiveness. One way to circumvent this issue would be to enroll your child in a maths enrichment for primary school class. Given the smaller group sizes, your child would receive the attention needed to help him or her to clarify all doubts.
Ensure Conceptual Understanding And Not Procedural Compliance
One of the temptations that comes with teaching mathematics would be to force a student to memorize a particular problem solving procedure. In the short run, this method may produce some results as your child is allowed to blindly follow a set of steps. This is an easier task as opposed to comprehending a topic, and would get correct answers for simpler questions when tested.
However, there is a low ceiling cap on this method as it is insufficient for more complex and application based questions. These questions are designed to deviate from the base step by step process that students are used to performing. Instead, they test the creativity of the student to apply core concepts to various situations.
Furthermore, distilling mathematics down to a strict production line like process would rob your child of all the joys of the subject. Rather than encouraging blind memorization and repetitive reproduction, we should instead encourage exploration. While questioning and exploration of a topic may produce poorer results in the short run, they prepare your child to tackle higher order questions. Moreover, it helps to develop the kind of problem solving, pattern recognition and systematic logical thought process that is desirable in the future.
Build Confidence in Mathematics
The human psyche has been proven to be largely influential in the successful completion of any task. A phenomenon that exist in schools involves students believing that they are not born with the aptitude for math and thus are simply incapable of handling it. This could not be further from the truth, and acts as a huge barrier preventing them from doing well in the subject.
How then can teachers and parents build confidence in a student who thus far has been weak in mathematics? The answer lies in progressively upping the difficulty of topic questions and using wrong answers as a chance to further allow students to explore the topic. The crucial difference here compared to how many math classes traditionally operate lies in the withholding of answers.
Rather than feed students the model answer and expect them to replicate it, teachers should ask students for their thought process. By helping to develop and firm up a child’s logical problem solving process, a drastic improvement can be reaped not just for this one topic but for the subject as a whole.
When students are not having model answers shoved in their face, they receive less perceived rejection. Every misstep is viewed as an opportunity to learn and thus necessary. This builds up their confidence and their willingness to question a concept while exploring its application.
Be Spontaneous In Your Questioning
Mathematics is often seen as an abstract topic by students given how it is composed of numbers, equations, formulas and theories. Furthermore, questions are often delivered on paper, having being defined beforehand. As such, students associate the subject with “work” and not “play”. A negative feeling is developed towards math from the onset, which thus makes it difficult for your child to enjoy learning the subject.
One method to overcome this issue is to be spontaneous in your teaching of a subject. For starters, look for opportunities to set up real life problems to solve within the classroom. Doing so gives students a visible demonstration of how mathematics can be applied to them in their daily activities.
Additionally, the abstractness of math is reduced using this method as an easy to understand language is used. For example, when teaching addition:
- Demonstrate that 1 pencil plus 1 pencil equals two pencils
- Ask them what 1 eraser plus 1 eraser equals?
- Then question what 1 hundred plus 1 hundred equals
- Finally ask what 1 third plus 1 third equals
The central idea here is to use a simple and relatable real life scenario in the classroom as the foundation to teaching more complex ideas. This turns math from an abstract topic into everyday communication.
Trust Math Learning Groups (MLGS) To Instill Confidence In Math In Your Child
MLGS is headed by Mr Lawrence Ong, an NIE-trained teacher with more than 18 years’ experience teaching primary school mathematics in Singapore. Under his tutelage, your child will grow in confidence with mathematics and be keen to apply it to their daily lives. Find out more about our primary school maths tuition opportunities today.