I am wondering if anyone would like to share the challenges they are having teaching math. I am finishing my final year of college and I want to prepare myself for students issues concerning math.

This is my first year teaching 6th grade math, but I taught 2 years of 5th grade and one of Kindergarten (all subjects for those grades). I have found the same struggles in 5th grade and 6th grade....WORD PROBLEMS! The students have been taught how to solve a problem when they are learning that certain skill but have not learned how to "think for themselves" when given a problem to figure out what they need to do to solve it. My 6th graders are struggling to figure out what to do when I give them a basic problem of "so and so has 32 animals cards. 10 of the cards are mammals and 15 cards are reptiles. The rest are birds. How many bird cards does so and so have?" They just look at me like I have 3 heads and say "I don't get it".

I teach 9th grade Algebra I and Transitions to Algebra, and I totally agree about the word problems! My kids are awful with them! I gave a test yesterday with nothing but quadratic word problems. We've been working with quadratics for over a month and nothing but word problems for the last week. I had a number of students (even though they know I don't answer 'how do I' questions during a test) ask which formula to use. For example the first question said "A RECTANGLE has an AREA of blah blah blah, what are the LENGTH and WIDTH?" At least 5 kids (out of my 29) asked me which formula to use! All the formulas are on the board, btw. I told them that the question tells them what formula and they just look at me like they have no idea what's going on. *sigh*

For me the killer is times tables. I can't tell you how many freshmen struggle with factoring because they don't know their times tables!!!!

I have taught 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and algebra. For the younger grades, I think that they lack enough hands-on experiential activities in K, 1, and 2. Teachers are too quick to use the workbooks. By 5th, those kids don't have a real good foundation in place value. Some kids have more natural number sense than others. Some are just fearful about math. I don't know why. For all students, though, they should really work on word problems daily. They should also be given more open-ended problems to explore in groups. Teachers are under such time constraints that it seems impossible to do this, though. So many kids suffer from attention problems, and that affects their ability to work through higher-level thinking processes. (I absolutely made the kids memorize times tables in 3rd grade - by Feb. I saw firsthand what a mess it becomes in upper grades when they don't have that skill.) One thing I have found extremely helpful is to have a calendar time at the beginning of each math lesson. It is so important - through 5th or 6th grade. Every single day (5th this year) we look at patterns, fraction/decimal/percent equivalents, and each month a new topic in addition (probability, solid figures, measurement, etc.) You can get so much done in just 15 minutes that it is mind boggling to me that more teachers don't use this.

In the upper elementary grades I find children have problems with their multiplication and division facts and deciding the best operation to use when solving word problems.It is amazing to see some students with poor basic math skills,yet high test scores.