Ah, math. The great equalizer. Pardon the pun, but that’s the most accurate way to describe the one school subject that transcends culture and geography. Simply put, math is truly universal. But its omnipresence means diddly-squat in comparison to the subject’s paramount and lasting importance in our students’ lives.
After all, the subject plays a crucial role in their ability to rationalize, analyze, handle money, and make themselves employable. Despite its importance, students’ attitudes toward math often lean toward mournful groans rather than expressions of enthusiasm.
In the first weeks of school, when the year’s tone takes shape, it’s possible for teachers to redirect the icky feelings kids have about the subject. So how do you create positive math vibes in the first weeks of school? We have a few ideas.
Establish Math Gamification
Look, numbers are rigid.
From simple addition to quantum calculus, a math problem ends with a right or wrong answer. While the way you teach math can vary, the way math works may as well be carved into the Tablets of Sinai. Which is why so many students find the subject so dour.
Enter math gamification. While there are a number of apps and computer programs that gamify math, we’re sticking with card and board games that allow students to work together. (Ahem, hello, ability grouping!)
Here’s a list of a few tabletop games designed for learning math in a more digestible but no less impactful way.
Age Group: 9 and up
Marketed as the fast-paced game of mental math magic, this six-person board game covers the gamut of foundational math equations, including multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and square roots. The game allows for modification, so teachers can choose which disciplines to play with based on what they’re teaching and where their kids need help.
Learn more about Proof.
Age Group: 9 and up
Described as a monstrously fun, smart game for kids, this 15-minute game relies on multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction skills to win. Adaptable for multiple grade levels, Adsumdi’s versatility allows for 416 unique math challenges.
Learn more about Adsumdi.
Age Group: 10 and up
One part strategy and another part luck, the Prime Climb math board game explores mathematical structures regarding multiplication, division, and prime numbers. This game is a bit advanced, so if you want to introduce it to your students below the recommended age, be prepared to provide a little extra guidance.
Learn more about Prime Climb.
Age Group: 14–18
This algebra card game has students work together with 12 matching sets of cards that feature graphs, equations, coordinate pairs, y-intercepts, slopes, and standard forms. What this card game lacks in flash, it makes up for in how it enhances critical thinking and reasoning through teamwork.
Learn more about Linear Graphs.
Use Real-World Math Case Studies
Remember when you were a student in math class? Specifically, do you recall how your teacher reminded everyone that they would not always have access to a calculator? Well, with the ubiquity of smartphones, that turned out not to be true. Nevertheless, math goes beyond what a gadget can produce. In fact, math is a key element in developing that very technology that has changed our lives.
Here’s something that will never change: Your students will want to see how and why math will make its presence known in their life outside the classroom. When you use real-world case studies to teach math, the numbers and graphs take on a deeper meaning.
Food Trucks at High Hills Elementary School
Some very smart and innovative teachers got together to design a large project that leveraged real-world math. To that end, these educators made math fun. The initiative asked students to use budgeting math to calculate how much profit they’d need to run a food truck.
The lesson plan prompted students to consider various variables, such as vehicle repair, gasoline costs, supplies, and permit expenses. In making math a tangible exercise, kids gained a deeper understanding of how to think critically about various elements that often get overlooked.
Learn more about this food truck project.
Math and Architecture
Every building, dwelling, bridge, and structure we see involves math at the core of its creation. It’s important that our students understand that, before any design takes shape, an architect used geometry, algebra, and trigonometry to ensure the durability of the finished project, the beauty of its features, and the safety of its users and inhabitants.
Consider giving history lessons on how architects used math to construct:
- The Egyptian Pyramids, which relied on volume equations
- The Guggenheim Museum, which boasts a beehive shape
- The Golden Gate Bridge, which uses a hyperbola to keep its integrity
- The Notre-Dame Cathedral, which architects used geometry to build in 1163 and to rebuild after the fire in 2019
- The Taj Mahal, which boasts a perfect symmetry that involves running perpendicular lines