How to Make Math Engaging

Some students may find math difficult, discouraging, or boring if they’re not being challenged. Perhaps they prefer other subject areas or have anxiety about math, tests, or school in general. Engaging students in math can help ease anxiety and improve overall comprehension in math. Here are some tips to help make math more engaging:

  • Encourage math discourse throughout lessons: 
    • Wait before allowing students to answer. Often we call on the first kids who raise their hand. However, others may need more time to form their answer or gain the courage to share it aloud. So pause a moment before calling on someone to answer. 
    • Have students explain how they arrived at that answer. This may include them coming to the board to verbally explain the steps they followed to solve the problem. 
    • Ask open-ended math questions. These are great because everyone can share their answers and they’re all correct! 
  • Use small whiteboards for all students to show their answers. This keeps students engaged because it requires whole-class participation. It also allows you to quickly monitor who has the right answer, who is close, and who may need further explanation. Sometimes call on one student to share their answer, not drawing attention to those who got it incorrect. Other times, you can respond with a “Got it” for those who’ve answered correctly and a “Try again” for the others. For those who got it right, allow them to draw on their whiteboard. For those who need to try again, this allows time for them to determine and correct their own mistakes. If they still miss the answer, you can then guide them through the process one-on-one while the rest of the class enjoys drawing. Give the whole class a few minutes to draw after this activity so everyone has a chance to enjoy expressing their creativity for a moment. 
  • Make word problems fun: 
    • Use the names of your students or other teachers/staff in word problems. Keep track of the student names used so everyone gets a turn within a short time period, like a month or quarter.  
    • Incorporate silly characters, settings, and items: While it is also important for students to solve word problems that focus on real-world applications, occasionally make up silly ones to keep students engaged and having fun. 
  • Let students make their own word problems for the class to solve. These could be placed in a box for you to pull from. It is recommended that you look at the problems ahead of time to tweak them or have the student reword them to avoid any confusion as the class solves the problem. 
  • Use manipulatives: These provide hands-on learning that many students find engaging. Manipulatives can be used for demonstration, in small groups or with partners, or for individual exploration. Need ideas for using manipulatives? Try these
  • Incorporate collaboration with partners or small groups: Have students work together to solve a word problem, play a game, or complete tasks within activities such as escape rooms. These encourage communication, taking turns, and working together. 
  • Show math tutorial videos: Integrating video clips into your lessons is a great way to engage this generation because videos tend to capture their attention. Periodically pause the video to allow students to answer the problems before the answer is shown in the video. This keeps them focused and engaged rather than just watching the video. 
  • Use games to keep learning fun: A simple web search will produce a plethora of board, card, active, and online games to use within lessons. Games are a great way to keep students engaged in math. It also teaches valuable skills of perseverance and good sportsmanship. Perhaps teach them the motto of “Win or lose, keep a good attitude” and have them give a high five or fist bump to the other team saying, “Good game.”
  • Use literature within math lessons: Stories can hold the interest​ оf students better than traditional methods​ оf instruction. Moreover, stories, such​ as our Big Books and Animated Big Books, make real-world connections and encourage critical thinking. For specific tips, check out this article!
  • Add food to the lesson: What kid doesn’t get excited when their teacher offers them a delicious treat? Candy, cereal, and other foods are great to engage students when sorting, making fractions, adding, subtracting, etc. 
  • Go outside for the lesson, small group/partner, or independent work: Who says math class always has to be inside? Grab some blankets for the kids to sit on and head outside for some vitamin D! Kids could even keep hats or sunglasses in the classroom so they’re always ready to enjoy an outdoor class
  • Act it out: Have your students stand in a line or make groups to represent small numbers to practice adding, subtracting, fractions, etc.
  • Use songs to practice basic math facts: Catchy tunes will easily stick in your students’ minds (and yours)! Check out our ORIGO Pre-K Stepping Stones which include Big Poster Books and Poster Books songs. These songs are sure to keep your students engaged with rich language, vibrant pictures, and unique music! 
  • Integrate math into science and social studies lessons: Incorporating math across multiple subject areas can engage your students, especially those who don’t prefer math. Plus they’ll see how math relates to various life content. 

For more ideas on how to teach concepts and keep your students engaged, check out our YouTube channel Origo One. We’d love for you to share your teaching tips with us there in the comments!

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ORIGO Education has partnered with educators for over 25 years to make math learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible to all.

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