Dayanna Volitich has taught middle school for many years and has, during her career, seen various influences come and go on how to teach math to kids in those years. Through her own experience, she has seen some of those methods and influences be successful and others be complete failures. While she does not subscribe to a singular school of thought, there are a number of things that she believes all good teaching methods should incorporate to teach math to kids in middle school.

How to Teach Math to Middle School According to Dayanna Volitich

  1. Make sure that the content is compelling. This can be difficult with math, but it is possible to make the subject matter more interesting by turning it into something kids care about. Instead of only talking about “x”, for instance, teachers could talk about record sales volumes of a popular band.
  2. Reward systems such as points and gold stars are overrated, particularly at that age. Kids no longer respond as well to them. Instead, provide achievement points that count towards a school trip at the end of the year, or give them 10 minutes more outdoor time, for instance. Make sure the rewards are either small but immediate, or large and something to work towards.
  3. Enable the students to teach other. Let them work together so that those with a more advanced understanding aren’t bored and those who struggle aren’t left behind.
  4. Make sure the work and homework is meaningful, rather than large in number. While repetition is key to grasping a concept, it is important that children do not become bored with the subject.
  5. Teach children to think, instead of providing them with the answers. This also keeps the mind of the teacher engaged, because coming up with clues can be mentally challenging. Ask those kids who know the answers to help develop clues for those who have not yet found them.
  6. Give students immediate feedback that doesn’t compare their outcome to that of their classmates but that is relevant to what they have done personally. Ensure that the feedback encourages children to take instant next steps.
  7. Go beyond the curriculum by changing the standard worksheets into relevant and contemporary pieces of work, getting the children involved in creating these.
  8. Teach math by using stories. Again, moving away from using algebra letters such as “x” and “y”, using representations of those letters (sales volumes of a top 10 hit, money in the bank of their favorite actor, real estate values in their local area, etc.) is a lot more interesting and brings it back to making math real.
  9. Ask volunteers to come in and help the kids with their assignments and tasks, particularly before testing periods. If tests are scheduled, make sure these volunteer tutors start coming in at least two months before.
  10. Understand how your students feel about math and work with those emotions to teach the subject. Make sure you adapt as and when your students’ emotions change.