Actively Learning Math

Is it any wonder that Pine Street Elementary was the only school in the tricounty area of South Carolina to earn “excellent” in both absolute and growth ratings?

The picture shows a classroom of children studying math through activities that get them out of their seats. Active (as opposed to passive) learning is always a more effective teaching and learning strategy.

Research has demonstrated that students learn more if they are actively engaged with the math they are studying. Constance Kamii, a world renowned expert on how children learn math puts it this way, “Children who are mentally active develop faster than those who are passive.”

Active learning is, in short, anything that students do in a classroom other than merely listen to a teacher’s lecture. There are several ways of doing this. Playing math games is a particularly useful one.

Math games:
• provoke students into discussing, explaining, and thinking
• challenge and interest students
• get students actively involved in their learning
• result in learning
• provide some immediate assessment

In the process of playing the game, students may develop initiative, interest, curiosity, resourcefulness, independence, and responsibility. Would that happen with a ditto or workbook page?

Children learn math best when they participate in games that are relevant to them, hold their attention, and require them to “make meaning” for themselves.

Teaching methods that stress rote memorization of basic number facts or algorithmic procedures are usually boring and do not require learners to participate actively in thought and reflection.