Math Can Be Understandable And Relatable

In my math classes one of my main goals is to make math understandable and relatable. So often the subject is approached with fear and anxiety because it seems abstract and incomprehensible. I think one of the main contributors to this mindset is the way math is taught. While it is a subject that requires rote memorization at times, I am a firm believer in the importance of understanding the concepts the students learn in addition to the ability to complete the process correctly.

Some of my favorite topics to teach are fractions and pi. I find that students, and adults, learn, and remember, when the events surrounding the lesson are memorable. Learning also becomes more meaningful when it is directly related to life or can be seen in concrete examples. When I teach adding and subtracting fractions I have the kids act out a story as I narrate. They are characters in the skit and act out a series of word problems. The more exciting the story the more they get into their characters whether it be 1/5 or 1/10. When they are later struggling with a problem I can remind them of the time that they were a spy named 1/10 who had to meet up with their friend 1/10 and together there were 2/10.

One of my favorite days this year was definitely Pi day (March 14 – 3/14). Many of my older students in grades 4-6 had worked with pi before when talking about circumference and area of a circle. My third graders had not yet studied pi, but all my students could benefit from a deeper understanding of pi. I placed a series of circular objects around the room. Each student was given a string and a ruler to measure the circumference and then diameter of the objects. As the students divided each circumference by their respective diameter it was awesome to watch realization and interest dawn on their face as each answer seemed eerily similar. In each class we had a great discussion about why all the answers to the each problem were almost identical.

I am consistently impressed with my students’ interest in math, determination, and eagerness to learn more. It is a joy to help build the foundation for each of my students in such a fundamental subject.

Lydia Staats has been teaching 5th and 6th graders on the Beverly campus since September 2015.