Maintaining Student Engagement in Math

Authors: Virginia Keasler and Mary Headley, Education Specialists: Mathematics

The STAAR test is over, the students are trying to shut down, and field trips and awards ceremonies are on the horizon. How do I engage my students so that learning continues?

What do students really say about what engages them? A recent article published in Edutopia in February of 2015, “Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement,” addressed this question.  220 students were asked, “What engages students?” The responses received seemed to fall under ten categories representing recurring themes.

  • Working with peers
  • Working with technology
  • Connecting the real world to the work we do/project-based learning
  • Teachers should clearly love what they do
  • Get me out of my seat
  • Bring in visuals
  • Student choice
  • Understand your clients – the kids
  • Mix it up!
  • Teachers should show their human side

Mathematics can be an intimidating subject for students; however, with the right math teaching strategies, educators can engage students in the subject matter and help them to better understand complicated concepts.

Now is the time to try a few new strategies pertaining to the students’ list above.

Working with peers has the potential to create students who are highly motivated and have higher levels of participation. The following short video from the Teaching Channel showcases an example of peer teaching: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/student-peer-teaching

While the use of concrete manipulatives is a critical component of math instruction, virtual manipulatives add to the learning experience. One technology resource for the math classroom is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM). Virtual manipulatives give students prompts, feedback, and answers to problems while working on problems lets the students incorporate more self-exploration. As always, you will want lead with the TEKS as you select manipulatives with which students will master content.

There are many ways to get students out of their seats. One of the strategies you may not have heard of is called Brain Breaks. Brain Breaks are a great way to re-energize your students to get their blood pumping and their brains re-charged for learning. The following websites have information and/or brain breaks in action:

http://www.pgsd.org/cms/lib07/PA01916597/Centricity/Domain/43/Brain%20Breaks.pdf https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/brain-break-classroom-transition-nea http://teachtrainlove.com/20-brain-break-clips-fight-the-fidgeting/

Allowing students to make choices for their learning is important in a math classroom. Choice boards allow for student engagement and are great for differentiation. A choice board is a tool that ensures students incorporate a range of multiple intelligences, and/or learning preferences.

Some of the benefits of choice boards include:

  • Allowing students more freedom with a choice of activities
  • Allowing students to work at their own pace
  • Promoting independence and responsibility
  • Promoting a more positive behavior

To explore choice boards visit: http://www.alexiscullerton.com/uploads/2/4/7/2/24729748/choice_boards_packet.pdf

It is important to keep students engaged in their learning process. Hopefully, these strategies will help you maintain student engagement after the STAAR test and give you several ideas to take forward into the new school year.

 

Reference

Heather Wolpert-Gawron. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-stories-heather-wolpert-gawron


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