How can I make math more interesting?

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by robinsky, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. robinsky

    robinsky Rookie

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    Sep 14, 2008

    I am a brand new teacher, and I did my student teaching in a very traditional high school where direct instruction was pretty much the order of the day. Now I'm teaching 7th grade, and my department chair thinks I need to make my lessons more interesting. I already feel like it's hard to cover all the topics I need to in our 45 minute long periods, by the time I get through the warmups and homework review, I really need to go over whatever lesson I need to teach them, and let them do some practice problems, and I don't even find time for that sometimes. I have tried playing games like Jeopardy, but those seem better suited for review than for new material. ANyb ody have any suggestions? Thanks!
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Sep 14, 2008

    Do you need to go over the entire homework every class period? My teacher does this in 2nd grade and personally I find it a waste of time.

    You can add spice to your warm ups.

    I would offer more advice but I'm not sure it is appropriate for 7th grade.

    I asked my own 7th grader what he does and what he likes. Here's the result of that conversation:

    His current teacher gives examples and passes out worksheets. His favorite teacher ever was his 2nd grade teacher. He taught hands on math and was funny about it.

    My college professor was a high school teacher. She had manipulatives and thinking games that applied to what they were doing. Her goal was to try to get the students to figure out solutions, in many different ways, for themselves before she teaches a formal lesson. I personally haven't figured out how she does this. She is awesome!
     
  4. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Sep 14, 2008

    Hands on investigations/problem solving and real life problems to solve help to spice up math. A lot of kids need to physically sort through things or have it connect to something that they can see in the real world.

    What topics are you covering? Maybe we can help more that way.
     
  5. robinsky

    robinsky Rookie

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    I don't go over all the homework - I ask for a problem or two from the class that was difficult, and I have other students got o the board to solve them.

    Right now we're doing integers - adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing. I had them get up and walk a number line. It was okay, but even that wasn't too exciting. Some kids really get it, and some don't. I need to make sure the ones who are not understanding end up getting it, without boring the ones that do!
     
  6. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Sep 14, 2008

    You could also use the colored dots for counters -- talking about red being negative and blue or black being positive (at least with adding and subtracting... it could potentially work for mult. and div.).

    Google the topic you are looking to spice up (In this case, I typed in "math with integers activities" and came up with several things), and peruse the stuff that shows up. There is a lot of interesting (sometimes) things on the web. Look through this site http://classroom.jc-schools.net/basic/math-integ.html and see if anything looks interesting to you.

    http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/activities/ArithmeticFour/ Connect Four-like game for two players using integer operations (Assuming you have occasional access to a computer lab)

    Just as a way to start.... But don't forget that not every lesson has to be exciting. But it is good to have some every now and then. They should be interesting -- something that they can connect with -- but that doesn't always equal fun. :)
     
  7. drapes330

    drapes330 Companion

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    Sep 14, 2008

    I think any time you can have the students doing things with their hands or bodies it makes more of an impression and helps them connect the work in their text books to the real world. Your idea of having the kids walk the number line was good, even if it wasn't super exciting. I would continue to integrate things like this, as well as lots of manipulatives. I also agree with myangel above. Google is your best friend in finding new activities.

    Finding a balance between your advanced students and the ones who need more support is the million dollar question of teaching, I believe. How familiar are you with differentiated instruction? It might be helpful to google that as well.
     
  8. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Sep 14, 2008

    Have students work in a group to solve a problem and then share it with the class either on the overhead or a large sheet of paper.

    Find a real-world project with integers and have students work on it. Get It Together: Math problems for grades 4-12 by Tim Erickson and Rose Craig is a good book with problems on various topics for students to work together on solving.
     
  9. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Sep 14, 2008

    My classroom theme is "Keepin it Real". Everything I do connects to every day life. For the integer example, you could have them balance a checkbook, but replace subtraction the the addition of a negative (which, is, after all, what subraction really is). Throw in a fee reversal or two and you have the whole subtract a negative thing going. You could also do this with a fake credit card account. This approach also reinforces decimals :D.

    Find a real life application to every single thing you teach. 7th graders need more than one class period on any given topic anyway, so do direct instruction one day and projects the next. Also, one thing that gets my students really excited for math class (strange, I know, especially for inner city kids) is that I make them keep a "real life math" journal. They have to write at least two entries a week describing real life uses of whatever concept we're studying in class. At first they protest, but then they get into it, and then into the subject themselves, which makes the projects even more exciting. We've done all sorts of stuff, like planning parties using linear equations to decide what we're going to serve and how many people to invite, to creating a bus schedule for a 3 route bus "system" using systems of equations. We've also played yahtzee (probabilty), done polls at school and in public (statistical methods), computed grades from a fake grade book (percentages, decimals and how my grading system works), among many other things.
     
  10. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Sep 15, 2008

    For checking homework one of the teachers I work with put all of the answers on the board, except that some of them are wrong. The kids have to go through their homework, find the answers he got wrong, and they go through those together. You might consider making your homework shorter. Just 5-15 problems to make sure they get the hang of the activity. You might spice up your class by having an introduction activity that the kids do in pairs or small groups that is related to the topic for the day. For instance, if you are going to talk about ratios, you might have a few story problems where the students have to fill in a ratio table to find the answers. Then you can discuss strategies that they used to find the different ratios.
     
  11. robinsky

    robinsky Rookie

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    Sep 15, 2008

    Thanks for all the great suggestions! I will try to see what I can incorporate. Part of my problem is that since I'm new, my department chair is having me assign the same homework as one of the other teachers, so I'm always trying to stay ahead of that. I feel like my class is dull, though, so I appreciate all the suggestions!
     
  12. JMUteacher

    JMUteacher Rookie

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    Sep 16, 2008

    Even simple problems with a twist. I have them write on white boards which they love. I went to home depot and cut shower board into little square and the kids enjoy using them. Also having them use dice to just come up with numbers that they use for problems. It sounds simple but for your students that need to move (pretty much all my 7th graders need to) it's great. Group work is also the way to go! When I had 45 minute classes Monday was direct instruction, Tuesday individual practice and doing a think pair share activity, Wed-Thursday a real life examples/solving problems, and Friday was usually some sort of summative or formative assessment.
     
  13. Charger

    Charger Companion

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    Sep 16, 2008

    JMUTeacher said: "When I had 45 minute classes Monday was direct instruction, Tuesday individual practice and doing a think pair share activity, Wed-Thursday a real life examples/solving problems, and Friday was usually some sort of summative or formative assessment."

    I like the idea of doing my week like mentioned above. Were you able to get through all of your curriculum this way? How many concepts did you cover on Monday with direct instruction?
     
  14. JMUteacher

    JMUteacher Rookie

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    Sep 17, 2008

    I usually would cover more at once, but I got through everything in the year. So say I was to introduce solving equations with one variable. I would introduce addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division all at once. Some of the student's were able to handle this and others needed to take it a little slower so once they had all the notes I would differentiate the rest of the weeks activities to them.
     
  15. science goon

    science goon Rookie

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    Oct 10, 2008

    Don't try to make math fun, exactly--make it real-life, relevant math. For example, right now my 8th graders are building models of the greenhouse we are building at my school. They are using all the geometry skills in the current chapter, but we aren't working out of the book at all. If you are bored teaching the material, imagine how the kids feel!

    JMUteacher, I like you idea. I'm new to teaching math at this level, and wonder about a good schedule.
     

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