by Ann Bowers
- Failure to focus. Each year of education should focus on a set of topics that have specific objectives for learning. New topics should be introduced every year, along with added depth
of study of topics that were introduced in prior years. Each topic should become more challenging each year, not just the same as it was the year prior.
- Too much repetition . Generally, a topic should be studied for three to four years. Basic multiplication does not have to be taught every year from age 7-13. The child should have mastered the multiplication tables (1-12) by age 10 or sooner. That’s four years (ages 7, 8, 9, 10) of learning them. Failure to do so may indicate a lack of sufficient effort and study time or a learning disability.
- Constant use of drills and worksheets to instruct . Don’t use rote drills and worksheets as the mainstays of your math program. They are used for memorization of basic facts and practice and review of problem solving. It’s far more important to base your program on real life [tag-cat]math[/tag-cat] and discovery learning activities.
- Failure to review
. While you don’t want to repeat basic instruction over and over, as stated above, review is important so that children don’t forget what they’ve learned. All information and skills should be reviewed on a regular basis. It helps to make a chart each year of the skills the children have learned and review them monthly. Homework assignments (“independent work” for homeschoolers) are effective vehicles for review, but the teacher should also review with students.
- Insufficient time. Math should be studied daily for at least one hour, no less.
- Failure to evaluate
. It is vital to evaluate students to make sure they have learned what has been taught. If they haven’t, they will not be able to master more difficult skills and concepts when they are taught. Evaluation can be done through observation and tests, but it’s important that students work on their own while being evaluated. Make sure they cannot view other’s work during evaluation.
- Relying on a single textbook for an entire program . Parents should choose a high-quality math textbook series to use. The textbook is a “jumping off” place. It will give you an idea of the scope and sequence of each year’s instruction. It should provide learning objectives for each topic and skill. The textbook will provide ideas of how to teach a skill or concept, as well as suggestions for projects, activities, and review. The textbook will save time by providing practice math problems, charts, and visuals. Workbooks also provide practice activities and visuals. Some textbook pages can be used during instruction and some during guided practice. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a textbook and workbook is a complete math program. You need to supplement with manipulatives, real life math activities, and instruction! Also, there may not be enough practice and review materials, so you should create more.
Be careful not to make these common mistakes when teaching math!
Ann Bowers has been an elementary school teacher, in kindergarten through 8th grade, for 20 years. She was a Bilingual Education Grant Project Coordinator for seven years and a school principal for seven. She has a B.A. in English, an M.A. in Education, and holds California Life Teaching Credentials and specialist credentials in Remedial Reading and Teaching English as a Second Language. She is retired and has started a second career as a freelance writer.
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