New Hands-on Approach for Math Education

A revolution is underway in the world of mathematics instruction. Educators around the country are adopting a brand of problem-based teaching that reinforces math concepts without relying on dry worksheets. Instead, teachers are incorporating dynamic hands-on instructional methods into the curriculum. Schools offering Mathematics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Innovative Math Instruction

In early education settings throughout Chicago Public Schools, students are not the only learners to be found in classrooms. New and veteran teachers alike are receiving lessons of their own. Just as children are expected to internalize classroom concepts, educators in a mathematics education project are being asked to pick up new methods for teaching math skills.

Teachers in the Chicago program receive training from coaches provided by the Erickson Institute, a graduate school specializing in early childhood education. Through a series of in-classroom visits, educators are evaluated as they implement hands-on instructional strategies designed to teach the youngest students math. For example, children in preschool might learn size concepts by comparing the size of their hands or how to follow patterns using blocks, toys or manipulatives.

Previously only pre-K and kindergarten teachers have had the opportunity to participate in this program. Now, though, it is set to be expanded to first, second and third grade educators at select Chicago schools. The objective: To provide more teachers with math instruction strategies that don't simply rely on traditional worksheet activities. When math concepts are grounded in hands-on activities that incorporate problem solving, children are able to more effectively internalize them.

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A National Movement

The innovative math instruction program in Chicago Public Schools is only one of countless initiatives in place throughout the country. In Englewood, New Jersey, for instance, the school district is adopting a new 'Math in Focus' initiative designed to change how educators teach elementary students mathematical skills. The problem-based method is based on curricula utilized in Singapore, one of the best performing countries on student math assessments.

Educators of older students are also employing hands-on learning in an effort to improve comprehension. For example, innovative middle school educators are teaching mathematical concepts by incorporating them into real-world activities like computer programming. Bootstrap, a national after-school program, teaches middle schoolers algebra as they create basic video games. Students have so much fun developing games that they often even forget they are learning.

And in Charleston, South Carolina, educators are adopting another form of 'hands-on' innovation for mathematics instruction: iPads. A pilot project in one elementary school has students using iPads for a variety of subjects, including math. One teacher involved with the program notes that children are more engaged when lessons incorporate the touch-friendly iPad. And while the pedagogy's effectiveness is not yet known, at least one student gives passing marks to the use of iPads: 'They're cool, they're awesome, and they're really fun. We're getting smarter by using technology like this.'

Learn more about how K-12 educators are using Apple's iPad to teach math in the classroom.

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