Mathematics Instruction: Strategies for Engaging Gen Y Learners

by / Tuesday, 05 November 2013 / Published in Teachers Tips


Rote memorization of “times tables” and flash card drills are SO last century! But how can you engage today’s math students, members of Generation Y, while insuring they attain math proficiency?

“Math is so BORING!” “I just don’t get it.” Sound all too familiar?

Then consider these seven strategies to make mathematics FUN and challenging, while engaging today’s visual, hands on, and auditory learners. Give your students the confidence to make math figure-outable.

1. Manipulative

This hands on strategy allows students to “play” with colored tiles, blocks, geometric shapes, or fraction pies. While this may seem like “playing with blocks,” it is a very effective way for both visual and hands on (kinesthetic) learners to literally “see” and “grasp” math concepts.

2. Visual Models and Sketches

Models and sketches are also helpful when engaging visual learners — and this is a generation that grew up with visual stimulation.

3. Peer to Peer Learning

Cooperative partner work encourages students to talk about math concepts, write about conjectures, and then create visual representations such as charts or models to help explain the math concept to their classmates.

4. Observational Language

Students are asked to identify and catalog essential elements of a math concept, and then “put it in writing.” For example, fourth grade students could be given index cards to record observations about rectangles and other polygon shapes. The students then compare notes, create a poster with peers, and share their findings.

5. Trial and Error

Rather than have the teacher simply tell the students about a math concept, trial and error allows students to discover a math concept based on their own observations. It will appeal to visual and hands on learners, and to those who have a hard time sitting still.

Here’s an example: Teams are given jar lids, cans, cardboard tubes, or round wastebaskets. The students are asked to measure the diameter and the circumference of each of the circles using a tape measure, and to record the measurements on a data sheet. Students then compute the ratio, and — Voila! They discover pi, a number between 3.1 and 3.2. Older students can graph the relationship on grid paper, with the slope equal to approximately 3.14.

6. Word Resource Cards

Word resource cards pair a math term with a graphic representation. The cards have a student-friendly description on the back. At the conclusion of each unit, the word resource cards are posted on a math word wall. The combination of pictures with words is especially helpful to English language learners.

7. Know-Want-Conditions (K-W-C) Chart

A K-W-C chart is a tool to help students with word problems. So when Train A departs the station, write what is known about Train A in the K column. Do the same for Train B. Write any tricky conditions lurking in the text of the story problem in Column C, and then devise a formula to answer the query in column W. Feel free to innovate and use props to create concrete “real world” representations of abstract word problems. See? Not so hard!


What is your favorite math teaching strategy? Please share your comment.


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