Do you like math? Do your students like it? Math is one of those content areas that people – teachers, parents and students alike – seem to either love or hate. But the truth is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are seven misconceptions about teaching math that everyone thinks are true, and arguments against these misconceptions that will have you reconsidering what you think you know about math.
1. Some Students Just Don’t Have an Aptitude for Math
Just like learning how to read, the truth is that most people are born with an innate ability to do math. Along with a positive attitude, teachers can nurture all students’ success in math with a supportive learning environment that allows for creative problem solving.
2. There Is Only One Way to Solve a Problem
The truth is that there are usually a variety of ways to solve any math problem and an array of tools available to help. Find interactive tools on sites like Gynzy and integrate them into your lessons to allow students to explore different ways to solve problems.
3. Students Won’t Learn the Basics if They Rely Too Heavily on Technology
Technology is a powerful teaching tool when used appropriately. Students don’t use interactive tools to do the thinking for them. Rather, the tools propel their thinking and amplify their abilities.
4. If You Want to Be Good at Math, You Have to Memorize Lots of Facts and Formulas
This isn’t true at all. Good math teachers recognize that there is more than one way to solve a problem. They focus on making sure their students conceptually understand mathematical concepts, and then give them different tools that allow them to solve problems by applying thinking skills and creativity.
5. Drill and Repetition Are Necessary for Students to Learn Math
While fluency is important, there are better ways to help students practice their facts than simply drilling them with flash cards or worksheets. While worksheets and flash cards certainly have their place in the math classroom, teachers must also find other methods of teaching concepts and allowing students to practice. Interactive tools for the smart board give students different ways to develop fluency while working collaboratively and solving problems.
6. Girls Are Less Interested in Math Than Boys
This sounds too old-fashioned to still be believed, but the truth is that this bias is still out there. Any high school science or math teacher can attest to the fact that the persistence of negative stereotypes of females in STEM professions deters girls. Math teachers can battle this trend by engaging girls, and all students for that matter, with projects, problem solving activities and learning opportunities that appeal to different learning styles. The interactive whiteboard is a valuable tool for this because it allows teachers to integrate interactive tools and multimedia content into their lessons that engage students in tasks that they otherwise would have avoided.
7. No C Students Allowed. Only the Top Students Should Pursue Math Careers.
In reality, students who have struggled to understand mathematical theories may have an advantage over those to whom math comes easily. These students have had to overcome their confusion and misunderstanding of math concepts, and so are better equipped to communicate their thinking about these ideas and to apply this understanding to solving problems. Math teachers who understand this can foster student achievement by providing struggling students with tools like animations to explain abstract concepts and alternative ways to solve problems.
The way we teach math has changed as societal needs have changed. In today’s information age, students have tools like calculators and computers to do simple computations, so they are required to use higher order thinking skills to make decisions about how to apply mathematical concepts and to use mathematical tools to solve problems and communicate their thinking. Students as young as kindergarten have access to a wide variety of virtual tools and manipulatives to develop numeracy, acquire mathematical vocabulary and to learn to think and communicate mathematically.
It seems that math has never been more important. What are some misconceptions about teaching math that you have encountered?