We're gearing into our most math heavy unit involving lots of word problems and graphing. And I must say this is always a tough time for me. In my science methods courses, I learned a lot about how to make science fun and engaging, by doing labs and hands on activities, but having never taken any math methods courses, I don't really know how to make math more interesting. Today we were doing word problems and kids looked like they were literally melting away. I did whiteboards with them today, but it was a little awkward for word problems, and they were pretty complex word problems. The kids just wanted to doodle, and I didn't let them do that (because they were trying to doodle while I was talking or instead of doing the problem), so they weren't pleased. So I was wondering if any math people could share with me some ideas about how they make their subject more interesting and engaging for students.

This isn't math specific, but when I feel like I'm teaching a particularly boring lesson, I play "buzzword". I choose a word (or several) that I know I will say at least once during the lesson. I try to make these words ones that are content specific, but not new vocabularly words or anything. Anytime I say the word, the first student to say "buzz" gets a point. Sometimes they have to give the definition first. If I have extra time, I'll let the winner throw a tennis ball at a target (I keep one on one of my bulletin boards for various games) and they get a prize if they hit it (either a pencil or eraser or piece of candy). Other times, I just give them the prize.

A great resource I use with my students is Matific. It's a free website that provides hands-on interactive math activities. They are a K-6 program so you can start with the basics or move onto higher grade level material for your advanced learners. There are some amazing graphing activities that you can demo full class or have them work independently if you have student computers!

I remember we used to have "island projects" in 8th grade algebra. We had a set of word problems to complete as a group and I think we had some kind of larger project to create using the stuff from the small projects. I don't remember many specifics but I remember they were SUPER difficult and competitive (maybe because I was in the advanced class). You could always have a team competition. Give them all the same problem set and a time limit. Whomever has the most correct wins an extra credit point or a lollipop or something. You can also have them teach each other. Each pair gets a different word problem. They must solve it and teach the class how they solved the problem.

Maybe you can have breaks in between your lessons / activities? Showing them some real-world applications of math might not be directly related to the lesson but could help increase their motivation. A couple of clips on that: NUMB3RS Coin Toss Pi - Patterns Given the math unit you're working in, the students might not be particularly excited to go to class, but you can set a good mood early on by making them crack a smile. You might be able to get them laughing with this Abbott and Costello clip about multiplication.

This might not work for you, but I took a class about teaching math through problem solving. I really like it and I think it's very engaging. What content are you teaching now? I also think technology, such as Geogebra or manipulatives can make math more engaging!

I was at B******** HS and saw a cartoon that had a tombstone with "I told you I'd never use Algebra." on it. This was on a math teacher's wall, I was a sub. So, as usual, when the teacher forgot to have a set of things for the sub to do, I winged it. Being a sub is a combo of stand up comedian and jack of all trades. The next time I needed to quiet the natives, I used my "bridge design" paradigm. I told my kids, "You are an engineer designing a bridge." Then I said, "How thick should the steel for the cross beams be?" To find the thickness, we determined 1) how long the bridge was 2) how much the average car weighs. 3) how many cars could be on the bridge at once. We decided that a single car (big car) might weigh about 2,000 pounds. We were going to look for a piece of steel thick enough to support three (3) times that, or 6,000 pounds. Why" Because a semi might have 2 cars on top odf each other (4,000) and we needed to be safe. We took the steel to our "lab. " Then we used a hydraulic press to see what it took to "break" it. The first thickness was 12 inches. It broke at 2,000 pounds. The second thickness was at 15 inches. It broke at 4,500 pounds. At this point we stop. Steel is expensive. How do we find the needed thickness from the data we have here collected? We mke a graph and put the two values pounds: thickness and pounds on the X and Y axis. Graphs are easy, and kids love em... Then we find the intersection point for 12 in. & 2,000 lbs and then for 14 inches and 4,500 lbs. Now we draw a line through both. To find our answer, we go to 6,000 lbs and find the corresponding inch value. Viola With the correct inch value found, I capped off my presentation with an explanation of engineering. I told the class that engineers make a ton of money. I also explained that doctors in Maimi-Dade pay two million dollars per year for liability insurance. So, to make a profit, they need to first make 2 million bucks before they earn anything for themselves. However, Engineers are also in the big bucks, but pay no liability insurance.

Interesting exercise, though I'd recommend revisiting your numbers on medical malpractice insurance: even in Florida (which has extortionate premiums: see https://www.quora.com/How-much-on-the-average-does-doctors-malpractice-insurance-cost-in-the-US) and even in the high-risk specialty of OB-GYN, your estimate of a $2 million premium per year is high by an order of magnitude, and a doctor in internal medicine or family practice pays about 75% less. I'd hate to have a medical office manager's kid go home, learn from Mom that the facts aren't as you stated, and conclude accordingly that your entire lesson was bogus.

I grew up in the "new math" era. Math consisted of viewing strange pictures in a math book, filling in the blanks, and listening to adults discuss how weird math education had become. I didn't have a clue what math or even arithmetic was all about, struggled through high school and "elementary education math" in college, but when I began teaching, I finally understood it all. I went back and relearned algebra and upper level math (and love it!) What I currently see in elementary education is a reluctance to use manipulatives and applications of math. The emphasis increasingly targets completion of algorithms with one or two word problems thrown in for good measure. My fear is by the time students reach middle/high school, they are like me. They can supply the answer but they don't view math realistically. They view math as a problem in a book, not a functional procedure connected with the real world. This possibly leads to the frustrations such as your students are experiencing. Idealistically, (which might not be possible in keeping up with the pacing of the outcomes/standards), I would think middle/high school math should emphasize a project approach, such as constructing, designing, repeating scientific studies, etc., real life applications that require the use of the outcome being studied at that time.

Have you tried letting your students draw models of the word problems? That way they're doodling with purpose?