Starting a career as an elementary school teacher of math is more of a challenge than most people think. On one hand, you want to inspire your students and share your passion for mathematics.
On the other hand, you are aware of the fact that math is a discipline, which requires a methodical approach and adhering to many rules. The solution is to find a middle road and combine your enthusiasm for math with strict attitude towards teaching.
Set the rules and follow them rigorously
These days teachers are encouraged to be more understanding towards students, however, it does not mean that you do not need any ground rules. Quite contrary, those rules work in your students’ favor.
Imagine a situation, when there are no rules and your students have to shout over one another to ask a question – that is hardly an environment for studying anything! Your rules should be designed not only to keep an order during math classes, but also to inform your students about your requirements when it comes to homework and tests.
If you want to assume more friendly and open-minded attitude, discuss possible rules with your students and allow them to modify or propose new rules. The most important thing is to stick to the chosen set of rules. If your students catch you on breaking one of your own rules, you can be sure that they will ignore them too.
Being methodical does not have to mean being boring – it is perfectly OK to break the routine and include new activities and exercises in your teaching program.
Start afresh and capitalize on your students’ enthusiasm
The beginning of the school year is not only the perfect time to discuss the rules and regulations, but it is also a great opportunity to present math as a fascinating subject. Students show most enthusiasm towards learning new things during the first few days of the school year and yet most teachers spend this time on the most boring thing: revising the material from previous years.
Instead, use this occasion to present your students new, interesting math facts and problems. Leave the revisions for later, or even better – apply Singapore math teaching methods in order to never again repeat the material, which you have already covered, but build new math skills based on stronger foundations.
Teach practical stuff
It is very easy to go overboard and teach math as an abstract subject, focused only on solving typical math problems with no relation to the outside world. Not surprisingly, this is also why so many students hate to learn math – they fail to see the practical implications of their new knowledge.
Try to include as many practical exercises as possible and concentrate on teaching your students how to use math in their everyday experience. Here the methods and problems covered by Singapore math will be also very helpful.
You can also assume more creative approach and come up with your own exercises. Most importantly, listen to your students and respond to their needs by presenting them math problems they can experience first hand.
Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.