Top 3 Tips To Get Rid Of ‘I-am-bad-at-Math’ Syndrome
Children’s doubt towards their own math abilities often becomes a big hurdle which hampers their confidence. Every math teacher has faced the “I can’t do math” attitude. Courtesy their position, they have the enormous responsibility to rid their students of this deep-seated attitude. Not every child houses this attitude. Many are confident with their math. However, I think that bringing a change in the ‘can’t-do-math’ attitude of students is perhaps the most challenging part of teaching math. Given below are 3 tips and classroom practices that I feel would help fix and change the “I can’t do math” mentality.
(1) Merge math & fun
Students always want to have fun! So, the best way to rid the I-am-bad-at-math attitude is to make math fun. Many teachers have resorted to fun math activities to make their math classes entertaining. During a series of workshops with students, me and my team found out that kids often run away from solving math problems in a notebook, but the mere mention of math games and fun activities get them all pumped up.
Start your math classes with a math joke or give them an interesting brain teaser to solve. Make these a weekly routine. I guarantee you that you will observe a substantial change in students’ attitude towards math. Here are few math activities and math games that I collected, which can be easily conducted either in home or schools.
(2) Involve movement in math
When the Logic Roots team was extensively researching on how to effectively conduct math classes, they made a very important observation. They found that the normal lecture-type math classes often lost the interest of students. While the teacher was busy lecturing away, few of the students (especially those with the I-am-bad-at-math attitude) had already drifted to some wonderland. That was when the team decided to turn the math class into a wonderland.
They organized a workshop style math class and created various stations. Next, they divided the class into groups of 4 and 5. Each group was sent to a different station where there were few problems to be solved. The problems ranged from easy to difficult. They placed the teacher at a head station whom the students could approach if any student in the group failed to solve the problem even with the help of her peers. This entire activity got the students really involved in the class. The teacher was also able to recognize those kids who needed extra attention from her.
Although one cannot always deviate from standard lecture style math classes, it is necessary at times to make students move around. Involve more movement in math classes, take them to the grounds or conduct an activity that involves movement. This really catches the attention of students. Also, lessons learned through movement always stay longer.
(3) Challenge and reward students
Since we are talking about students who ignore math by saying “I am bad at math”, let me tell you a very interesting trait about them. These kids are not unintelligent. They just lack the motivation to make an effort. But give them a challenge and see how they will jump at it. You can try this right in your classroom just like the Logic Roots team did.
We carried out this experiment when we were trying to find out what motivates kids to practice math. This experiment spanned over 8 weeks. We asked teachers of grade 3 – 5 to fix a day of the week as a Math Challenge Day. On this particular day, each teacher posted a math challenge on their class bulletin board. The students were instructed to submit their solutions within 5 days. Of course, there was a reward! Each student who would correctly solve the challenge would earn a star with their name and picture on the Math Hall of Fame Board. This Hall of Fame Board was a contribution of Logic Roots and we put it up at a place in school every week where everyone could see it. Also, the first 3 contributors with correct answer were awarded a set of Dr. Math Flash Cards from the Logic Roots Math Games Collection.
The response was tremendous. What we found was even more eye-opening. It was obvious for the bright kids to participate in the weekly challenge. What surprised us were those students, who ran away from the subject, also actively participated and gave their best. The teachers informed us that more and more kids approached them with doubts and questions about the challenge problem. All this because they wanted to be in the Hall of Fame Board. The response only grew over the 8 weeks.
In fact, after discontinuation of the experiment post 8 weeks, many students approached their teachers to revive the practice. This time, the school did it on their own accord and we hear that it still goes on and is a great hit.