Maths learning styles explained

We all know we all learn differently and at different rates. Children do lot of learning so it is important to ensure they are being given the correct maths resources and teaching styles that engages the way they learn best – be it auditory, visual or kinaesthetic. I’ve summarised the key points of each learning type in this article, however, it is important to remember not to pigeon hole your child into one particular group – everyone can take something from all styles to better our understanding.

As the name suggests, auditory or language learners, learn best by listening and then verbally discussing the topics. They remember information best by speaking aloud especially in a group setting and may even mumble to themselves when learning a new skill such as multiplication strategies or addition mental strategies. Purely written instructions may cause these students some trouble, so always remember this when designing your maths lesson plans.

It is generally thought that the most common learning style are so called visual learners, which is what most western classrooms are geared towards. For these students, being able to visually see a method of understanding is key to maths problem solving and they may often use pen and paper (or in modern times an iPad) to aid their learning. Purely giving verbal instruction to these students may not make any sense at all, so be sure to include visual maths activities that demonstrate key concepts in graphic ways.  Ideally, maths lesson plans should cater primarily for both auditory and visual learners, which many online maths resources address by using videos with verbal explanations.

Kinaesthetic or tactile learners need to be actively involved in learning through actual physical movement related to the topic. They find it hard to sit still, and often use their hands to “talk” and make gestures, which can lead to them being incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD or labelled as trouble makers. It is important to respect these learners and dedicate sufficient time to make sure they have access to maths resources that stimulate and engage them with maths activities that incorporate tactile learning.

What I have outlined above is by no means a definitive representation of all primary maths students as everyone is unique and learns in their own particular way. I always try and integrate all three approaches into my maths lesson plans to make the classroom fun and fresh.

Principles of outstanding maths lesson plans

Sometimes as teachers we can feel like we are using the same teaching ideas over and over again. I have put together some of my favourite principles for re-energising your maths teaching plans and daily classroom maths lesson plans to make your classroom buzz and come alive.

We all know students learn best by struggling with problems themselves. Indeed, students NEED time to be stumped by a maths problem – the more we as teachers step in to help solve the problem, the less a child learns. However, teachers still need to be involved in the guiding of the student through the problem as there are two types of “stuck” a student may be experiencing. The first is when the student is stumped by a maths problem solving task but is making positive progress towards a solution – using their key maths concepts. All the teacher need do in this situation is to give the student some positive reinforcement or maybe offer some more alternative routes to the solution. The second type is when a student is unproductively stumped and is not making any progress whatsoever. In this case the teacher can help by re contextualising the problem, moving to an easier task or directing the student to related maths activities they could work on. The key is to remember to give students enough time to work through the problem and allow their perseverance to reward them.

Following on from this, the teacher should never be perceived as the “answer giver”. Most students and indeed, most adults, will happily forgo hard work if they can see a direct path to a solution to a particular problem. The “information age” we live in encourages this to a certain extent, with the internet providing a seemingly endless supply of answers with the click of one button. However, to gain a deep understanding of the fundamental maths concepts and to develop sound mental strategies for problem solving in the future, struggling with problems is really needed. The teacher should be the “conductor” of the classroom if you will – directing and guiding the symphony, but not playing every instrument themselves.  The teacher should be the facilitator of learning, providing the students with all the maths resources they need to learn and develop their own solid knowledge base. There is no quick way to gain this – only through the process of failure and struggle can this be achieved.

Summer Learning Loss – stop the summer slide with fun maths resources

As maths teachers we all know that feeling when our students come back from summer holidays having forgotten a lot of what they had learnt. It seems as soon as that final bell rings on the last day of school and the summer heat starts to permeate every part of their routines, much of what they have learned goes out the window. So how can you reduce the learning loss and cement deep understanding into your students? Read on to find out about various techniques and maths activities that you can ask your students to follow over the holidays.

It is a well known fact that pretty much all primary school students experience some level of learning loss over the summer break. It’s only natural that this occurs, as with anything, if a student stops practicing and engaging with maths problem solving, their skills will diminish. Many parents send their children to holiday activity camps which is great for keeping kids physically active, however what is often forgotten is exercising the brain is just as important for ongoing improvement and developing long-term mental strategies to deal with all sorts of problems – be they maths related or otherwise. Recent data indicates that teachers normally spend around four to six weeks re-teaching maths concepts that their students have forgotten over the break.

Luckily, these days there is a host of online maths resources available that kids can really engage with in a fun way. A great website for such resources is alearningplaceatechingplace which has many maths activities and ideas laid out or explained in easy to follow videos. This website encourages student investigation rather than “answer getting” and has many ideas to keep maths concepts alive and the brain stimulated over summer. In addition to online maths resources, you should also encourage your students (and parents) to incorporate maths problem solving into everyday life. For example, if your students are travelling in the car to their holiday destination, ask them to play a game by looking at the number plate of other cars and adding up the numbers, then dividing, subtracting and multiplying them. If they are travelling by aeroplane, ask them to work out how many kilometres it is to their destination, and how long it will take to get there and the local time.

Another online maths resource that is directly designed for students and parents is primarymaths.com.au which can be used on desktop, tablet or mobile and lets students learn and cement key maths concepts in a fun and engaging way. It uses pictures and videos to explain concepts such as place value, counting and grouping and basic algebra, with the option to complete further activities and test their knowledge with easy to use assessment features.

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