Updated: Mar 9
My first year of teaching was a rude awakening. I was teaching Math Intervention and Algebra 1 in South Central Los Angeles and while I chose to teach in South Central, it was a very different classroom experience than I had experienced in my own white, upper middle class neighborhood.
Here’s how I thought it was supposed to go. Direct instruction → Worksheet practice → Homework. I expected students would sit quietly and take notes then practice the problems I gave them promptly and with excitement.
Instead, what I was met with was:
➤ Blank stares
➤ No collaboration and super passive students
➤ Feeling frustrated and disheartened everyday at work
➤ Spending hours of my weekend lesson planning
Maybe you can relate to this experience?
My teacher preparation program didn’t equip me for this. They didn’t share math instructional strategies that worked for me and MY kids.
My kids who had failed math every year since 5th grade.
My co taught kids with IEPs.
My kids with such high math anxiety, they’d rather ditch than set foot inside a math classroom.
Luckily, this story has a happy ending.
By my fifth year in the classroom:
➤ My students were collaborating every day
➤ There was a sense of urgency to complete math problems
➤ My students were actively participating
➤ I felt energized and accomplished everyday at work
I went from overworked and disheartened over student success to a relaxed and confident intervention math teacher with thriving students!
…And it’s all because of a few powerful research based math instructional strategies that I figured out how to put together into something I call the Math Wars Method™ and will share with you in this post.
The problem with most teacher ed programs and math PD for teachers is that they fail to share effective Math instructional strategies that work for two specific student populations: students who struggle and students with math learning disabilities. I’m going to explore both these here.
Math instructional strategies for struggling students
Most professional development and books written about math instructional strategies are provided by teachers who may have once been in the classroom decades ago, but they likely never taught students who struggle. This is one of the top reasons schools and districts hire me to provide their math professional development, because I’ve actually taught the intervention class and I’ve actually taught in historically underserved communities. And most importantly, I’ve actually achieved massive student success.
There are unique challenges that face teachers with students struggling with math.
1. They’ve failed math for many many years
2. They have high math anxiety
3. They don’t believe they are a math person
4. They’re so used to giving up, that they never even try
5. They’ve been told my multiple teachers that they are a failure
The math instructional strategies we choose to use MUST take these challenges into account. One of my favorite math teaching strategies to use for students who struggle is real time formative feedback. Don’t worry, you can learn all about it later in this post!
Math learning disability strategies
Another problem with most math instructional strategies lists is that they leave out HOW the strategy applies and aids students with IEPs in math. Students with math learning disabilities often face the same challenges I listed above, but to an even greater extent. My favorite instructional strategy for students with math learning disabilities is gradual release of responsibility, better known as I do, we do, you do. I’ll share exactly how to make this a powerful instructional tool for our math students in the next section.
I’ve taken my experience and passion working with struggling students in math and created this FREE guide, “5 Easy Math Instructional Strategies” that I would love to share with you.
This guide will take the guesswork out of which research based math instructional strategies work best for your struggling math students so you can increase engagement and achievement (not to mention no longer feel disheartened with low student scores).
After you download the guide you’ll gain access to a list of 5 instructional strategies in math filled with math learning disability strategies and math instructional strategies for struggling students. These math teaching strategies can be implemented immediately into any 6-12th grade math classroom to boost student engagement. If you’re a math intervention teacher, special education math teacher, or just teach students below grade level in math, this guide was made especially for you!