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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What to do when a child is behind in math teaching/learning?

Truly learning should not be a race. Instead it should be a steady set of approximations as we get closer and closer to the identified goals and desires we reach for.

Yet when teaching large groups of students with identified grade-level expectations and standards, some children are "behind." This occurs for a large number of reasons in any school. These reasons are worth investigating as no child likes to be "behind" and often being "behind" in the early years sometimes can spell education troubles later on.

As I look at the reasons why children are "behind" in math, several reasons stand out including the following:
  • early life challenges that prevented a child from gaining a strong foundation in math.
  • less interaction with math related play, stories, and talk at an early age. (For example children who build a lot early on, tend to have better mathematical thinking skills later)
  • less academic identification, little good programming, and minimum practice in the early years.
  • limiting attitudes and mindsets about math learning.
With those reasons in mind, how can we help those students who are "behind."

Dispel Math Myths with Provide Positive Growth Mindset Coaching
It's important to dispel the math myths that exist. As one child told me one day, "People in my neighborhood can't learn math." We had to dispel that myth with the truth that anyone can learn math, and the challenge is to find the best ways to help all students learn math. A positive attitude, asking questions, practice, and math play are all ways that help people learn math.

Build a Strong Foundation in Number Sense
Recently I worked with a child who had a difficult time with making combinations of 10. For many reasons, the child did not have the opportunity to gain a strong foundation in number sense. Until we shore up that foundation, all new fifth grade concepts are going to be difficult to learn. It's important to look for ways to shore up that foundation in students who are "behind" in developmentally appropriate, engaging, and meaningful ways.

Engage Students in Math Play
Activities such as building with legos, playing games, measuring and making boxes and other shapes, cooking, making and playing with playdough, counting and sorting are all activities that help to build math skills and foundation.

Support
Our school has done a good job providing adequate teaching support at fifth grade. This means we have the staffing we need to support all children. The key is to utilize our collective teaching power in the best ways possible to support all children.

Online Learning
There are multiple great online tools that help us to support student learning. Making sure that children have a computer to use at home and in school with good tools and programs also supports positive math teaching and learning.