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Talking Through the Problems

The education technology advisors at suggest strategies for encouraging your students to work through math problems by engaging with them in non-traditional ways.

Portrait Of Male Pupil Studying At Desk In Classroom

Tables, charts, lists of equations, and pages upon pages of numbers. These words describe the memories many adults have of their mathematics classes. For some, the traditional methods of math instruction are perfectly adequate. For others, a purely numerical and visual approach to learning is not effective in breaking mathematical concepts down to their elements.

Because of the disconnect some learners experience between seeing a math problem on the board or a piece of paper and their conceptual understanding of it, educators must seek out alternative methods of teaching math that allow for different logical pathways that arrive at the same solution.

One method that should be considered involves using vocalization and reasoning. Students should be split into small groups, and given a problem to solve together. Students will be asked to read a problem, discuss it with one another, and think through a solution – all without writing down their answers. Using only voice and discussion as tools for recording their pathway, students are likely to repeat one another, which demonstrates active learning.

Another method involves literally walking through math problems. Using mats or tiles assigned different number values and mathematical operations to create a mathematical pathway, students can walk their way through the correct sequence, revealing the process and result of solving the problem.

When adopting these new methods of learning, students are bound to make mistakes. In response to errors, teachers should be prudent about reminding students that making mistakes is an important and transformative step in the learning process. It is also probable that student groups will discover multiple solutions to the same problem. Multiple routes to success will encourage students to share their process with one another. Students will begin to conceptualize multiple solving methods, rather than one.

Teaching students how to use logic and reasoning to justify their answers gives them the power to argue their case based on a set of established principles. It encourages analytical thinking, but also provides an opportunity for struggling students to intersperse questions into their arguments, strengthening their understanding of the concepts as they go.

Non-traditional math conceptualizing methods help students build critical thinking skills. They are an excellent supplement to traditional learning methods, and create a learning environment for multiple types of learners. Especially in small group settings, talking and walking through problems allows for play and encourages (requires, in fact) students to share their thoughts and ideas. This method is highly effective with grade school children, who are particularly passionate about sharing.

For answers to your education technology questions and supplies that fit your STEM teaching needs, contact the education technology advisors at TechMart today.