7 effective strategies for teaching Math in High School

7 effective strategies for teaching Math in High School

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effective strategies for teaching Math

Mathematics encompasses both skills and processes. Skills include fundamental arithmetic operations and the algorithms used in conjunction with them, as well as advanced areas such as algebra and calculus. Mathematical processes, on the other hand, involve the application of these skills in a creative and meaningful way through problem-solving, logical thinking, reasoning, and communication.

The strategies for utilizing skills and processes are discussed in detail below:

1. Focus on Mathematical goals in teaching Math:

To ensure that students understand the relevance of the current problem to their overall learning, educators should clearly communicate the mathematical purpose of the lesson. This approach helps students grasp basic mathematical concepts and computation skills while also improving their creative thinking, reasoning, connections, and problem-solving abilities. When students have a deeper understanding of the concepts involved, they can build their knowledge in mathematics. Additionally, it is important to encourage students to work independently or in collaboration, without relying on technology, to develop their procedural skills. Effective teaching of mathematics involves setting clear learning goals and using them to guide instructional decisions.

2. Reasoning and problem solving in teaching Math

For students to understand mathematics in a more meaningful way and to improve their critical thinking, they must have a deep understanding of the subject matter. This also helps them think from a wider perspective and relate it to logical statements. The students should have the ability to reason through the process, solve it, and draw conclusions to build their mathematical abilities.

Problem-solving skills, on the other hand, focus on the student’s willingness to attempt and perseverance to find a solution. They become aware of various strategies for problem-solving and reflect on their answers. Problem-solving can be differentiated between the three concepts: ‘method’ is the way to find an answer, ‘answer’ is the quantity, number, or some other entity, and  ‘solution’ is the whole process of solving a problem.

“Method + Answer = Solution”

Also Read: How teachers can use the best tools and resources available to create a modern classroom?

3. Connecting representation in teaching Math

Mathematics is often viewed as something that is completely isolated from our daily life. As educators, it is important for us to bridge the gap between math and its representation. Representation helps educators and students connect the abstract notions of mathematics. Multiple forms of representation, such as physical objects, visual diagrams, symbolic equations, verbal discussions, and contextual real-world examples, can be used to make sense of and understand math. This approach helps students justify and describe their understanding and reasoning using pictures, diagrams, drawings and more. 

It can include ‘Physical’ like concrete objects or gestures (counters, tiles, cubes. etc), ‘Visual’ to illustrate mathematical ideas using number lines, pictures, graphs, etc., ‘Symbolic’ to record ideas using numerals, equations, variables, etc., ‘Verbal’ to discuss, interpret, define from informal to formal mathematical language and last ‘Contextual’ will relate ideas in every day, imaginary, real-world situations or context.

By relating mathematical concepts to everyday situations, we can improve students’ understanding and engagement with the subject.

4. Mathematical discourse in teaching Math

Mathematical discourse is an essential ingredient in students’ mathematical learning. Discourse involves students comparing and contrasting ideas, constructing reasonable arguments, criticizing, and helping each other make sense of the material. When students engage in conversations, it reveals their understanding of the topic, whether they listen or react, and they learn to develop arguments. This approach helps educators identify areas where students may be struggling. 

One effective pedagogy that can be used is “Think-Pair-Share,” especially when students find it difficult to share their ideas and communicate with the whole class. This strategy allows students to process their thoughts and ideas with a partner before sharing them with the class, which can help them feel more comfortable and confident in expressing their understanding.

5. Create guiding questions in teaching Math

Educators are constantly striving to frame the right questions during their teaching. Questions provoke students to think, and open-ended mathematical problems help educators frame questions that enable students to think more deeply about a concept. Guiding questions help students realize that various responses, answers, and approaches are accepted and appreciated, which can help build students’ confidence and make them comfortable taking risks when answering questions or seeking help.

When framing questions, educators should keep in mind eight key factors: anticipating the answers, linking questions to the goal, asking open-ended questions, guiding questions to get the right answer, encouraging collaboration and conversation, using action verbs, being nonjudgmental, and being patient. By considering these factors, educators can frame questions that promote deeper thinking and understanding among their students.

6. Procedural fluency in teaching Math

Educators need to build on the foundation of conceptual understanding, reasoning strategically, and solving problems. Research suggests that if students memorize and practice procedures that they do not understand, they are less likely to understand the meaning or reasoning behind them (Hiebert, 1999). Students should have the ability to make judgments about which procedures to apply in a particular situation. 

Educators should analyze students’ own and others’ calculation methods, written or mental methods for the four arithmetic operations. To promote effective teaching practice, students should be provided with experiences that help connect procedures with concepts. This enhances students’ ability to rehearse or practice strategies and justify their procedures. Analyzing students’ procedures can reveal insights and misunderstandings, which can help educators plan the next step in instruction. By providing students with the opportunity to think flexibly, they will become more proficient in solving both contextual and mathematical problems.

7. Assessment and monitoring in support of learning

Assessment plays a vital role in indicating what students have learned. The assessment process should involve analyzing the application of the material, taking into account the specific skills and understanding that is required. For example, if students need to have the skill of solving mathematical operations with reasoning, they should have an understanding of the mathematical concepts involved. Assessment can benefit both students and educators by improving learning outcomes.

For assessment to support learning, it must allow students to develop new knowledge from their prior knowledge. Educators should encourage students to learn how to monitor and evaluate their own progress in their learning. The educator should keep track of student learning and provide feedback on student progress. Depending on the progress of student learning, educators can adjust their instructional methods to better support student understanding.

Educators must find platforms that are appropriate for their local contexts and provide open-ended tasks that allow students to use multiple representations to share their thinking. As educators, we must listen closely to what students understand, and connect that understanding to the ways of thinking of others, in order to build stronger shared knowledge. It is important to be adaptable and flexible in finding ways that work best within the local context and make the students comfortable enough to share their thoughts and ideas.

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