When I first started teaching, I was terrible at math instruction. With a background in English Literature and only a few math pedagogy classes under my belt, I had no idea how to begin helping my students increase their numeracy skills. Sure, I had command of elementary school mathematics topics, and I knew what skills my students needed to develop, but my teaching methods relied far too heavily on worksheets and repetitive practice. While these are important components of math education, they are not all that there is. Slowly, and with the help of veteran math educators, I came to see that math instruction needed to be just as dynamic and interesting as any other subject. Here are three important revelations I had about teaching math:

You can do it in groups

Just like group work in history or English, math groups provide support and collaborative education for all students. There is no need to keep math education completely individualized. Giving complicated multi-step problems to groups to solve, and making each member responsible for part of the process can teach students much more than an individual practice problem.

You can make it a game

Students need to be engaged to retain whatever subject they are learning. One of the easiest ways to pique engagement is to make a game or competition out of the material. Have students compete against other classes, or devise a game that has students practicing math fluency facts. Gynzy has great math applications that make learning math fun.

You can make it applicable

Students will often moan and groan about learning math facts that they don’t feel they will use – So tell them exactly how they will be using the new concepts throughout their life, and how learning this concept will make life easier for them. Granted, this is easier in lower grades than in higher ones, but higher level students should grasp that math is an essential part of operating within the world, and a vital subject to be learned.

With these three revelations in my minds, I was able to design math instruction for my students that was dynamic, exciting, and effective. I didn’t dread planning math lessons anymore.