Joseph Manfre, a math educator at Punahou School in Hawaii, writes for Edutopia that teaching students how to study math beyond simply reviewing notes and memorizing is crucial to improving their understanding of the subject.
One suggestion he makes is for students to run through practice tests so they're mimicking the manner in which they'll be assessed while learning the skills they'll use. He also encourages students to work through math problems they’ve tried before, see steps they may be missing, and then do them again so they learn how to do them without any issues before assessments.
While reviewing notes can be of help, so too can asking peers or a teacher for guidance, from study practices they’ve found useful to support on understanding their work.
Teachers can help students overcome math insecurities, as well as areas where they may be struggling, by teaching them strategies for learning alongside the technical skills of the subject itself.
There are many reasons educators may want to help students, particularly with their emotions. To start, negative feelings — such as the anxiety some children may experience when learning math — can hinder their ability to tap higher-order thinking, from problem-solving to memory. That alone can create an additional impetus to their math aptitude. Here, teachers can help by breaking assignments into smaller steps, hurdles that can be overcome one at a time rather than huge sets of problems that may feel, to them, insurmountable.
Employing strategies like prediction and estimation when looking at math problems may also help students start thinking in mathematical ways, but without having to face the stress or anxiety of getting an answer exactly right or wrong.
Other educators have found having students connect personally to math problems — such as writing stories about the math work they’ve been assigned — can help boost their math performance. A similar strategy, called interactive storytelling, works by forging a connection between a storyteller and listener, and may help to embed the subject, in this case math, for students.
Math is a skill students will lean into throughout their lives, whether they’re figuring out how to live on their salary or calculating if buying something at the grocery store in bulk will save them money. Helping pupils learn how to approach math in school can help them tap into the skill with confidence and not concern as they progress in their academics, careers and personal lives.