Since time immemorial, Math has always been “the ultimate dreaded subject” for students. Math tutors and teachers know this ordeal, so they try a couple of methods to make their classroom lectures more engaging and effective. While math is already a tricky subject to master in face-to-face learning, can you imagine how it’s become more difficult in today’s pandemic-induced online learning?
While some countries are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, others are still forced to stay at home for work and education. This affects students’ learning potential, especially in difficult subjects like Math.
Why students find Math more difficult than ever today
Students of all ages can agree: Math has never been this hard.
And it’s not just a rant — it’s actually backed by research. A couple of studies suggest that Math takes a bigger hit than other subjects in the pandemic-related schooling disruptions.
The pandemic and the virtual learning environment that comes with it cause learning loss among students. This is due to the following reasons:
- Classroom learning is all about interaction, from student-to-teacher interaction to peer-to-peer collaboration. Digital platforms eliminate that collaboration and camaraderie, which are essential to learning something as challenging as Math concepts.
- Unlike reading, Math is always formally learned at school. It’s not something you can easily learn in homeschooling since parents are often less equipped to help their kids with to learn math.
- A physical classroom is quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions. Not all homes are conducive to learning in that same way. Students face a couple of learning barriers, from the lack of a quiet and clutter-free designated study area to poor internet connectivity and faulty devices.
- The existing stress and trauma caused by the pandemic greatly contribute to students’ math anxiety.
The Role of Math Educators
If you’re an educator, your role is not just to explain the subject matter effectively — but you also have the responsibility to address these hindrances and keep your students engaged, less stressed, and motivated to learn.
Even if you’re teaching the same topic to students of the same grade level, virtual learning just doesn’t feel the same as classroom learning. You’re teaching in a whole new environment, so your approach should adapt to the change too.
Distance learning makes it more challenging for teachers and online maths tutors to engage in effective math instructional practices, but it’s not impossible. Here are 9 things you can do to make your lectures more engaging and effective for your students.
1. Create a safe space for sharing and collaboration
Build relationships with and between students. Promote a sense of community by encouraging them to talk about their home, pets, and personal interests. This will create a safe, comfortable environment for sharing, exploration, and collaboration.
Moreover, make sure you encourage questions from time to time.
2. Give an exercise after every topic
Put yourself in the shoes of your students: sit in front of the computer for two hours and listen to a five-part lecture with no interaction other than “yes sir, we can see your screen.” Don’t you just find it draining?
While encouraging breaks help, giving a math exercise after every topic also gives your students a form of break from the “info overload” while allowing them to apply concepts they just learned. The application promotes better retention of complex topics.
3. Incorporate videos into your lectures
Audiovisual presentations also help break the monotony. The virtual setting makes it easier for lecturers to show engaging videos, whether they are self-made or they are taken from YouTube and other resources.
Be creative with your materials. Instead of boring tutorials, you can choose animated clips and infographics that explain the subject matter in a simpler yet more entertaining way. Don’t forget to give them a copy of a link to the material for review purposes.
4. Encourage real-life application
To make math lectures easier to understand, you may include real-world mathematical applications. Students are more likely to understand and solve math problems they can visualize and apply in real life. Examples include measuring a room for carpeting or doubling the recipe for a family meal.
5. Look for digital tools that mimic face-to-face learning essentials
Students might not have access to printed materials but you can give them online resources to refer to. You may not have a physical whiteboard but you may use a whiteboard-style app that mimics face-to-face classroom interactions and even records lessons for students to return to.
Being a tech-savvy online maths tutor or teacher can go a long way.
6. Explanations require greater detail
Yes, you can use videos, games, apps, and even memes to make your lecture more entertaining. However, nothing beats an effective explanation of the subject matter. Make sure your voice is well-projected, and your optimism transcends through the screen.
7. Give external resources they can review
No matter how good you are in your field, you cannot always give individual attention. You won’t even get to pick up the small signals from students that indicate confusion. To make sure no one gets left behind, allow students to explore resources outside of the classroom.
Give them reliable apps, programs, websites, videos, and other resources. These will help them strengthen their skills and practice what they’ve learned in class.
8. Get the parents involved
Recent studies stress the importance of parental guidance in student learning. Research suggests that students with highly involved parents who participated in educational activities tend to gain more learning.
Teachers and parents should work hand in hand. If you’re an educator, you may chat with parents and provide them with short lecture videos to help them prepare. You may also recommend math-related games and apps that encourage families to integrate math conversations into their everyday living.
This is highly recommended if you’re working with students with special needs or learning barriers.
9. Tackle math anxiety
A recent article published in Education Week written by Stephen Sawchuk & Sarah D. Sparks suggested that it would be helpful if teachers and school psychologists would team-up.
They should work together to identify students with math anxieties and those with higher stress and trauma exposure during the pandemic.
Experts also suggest incorporating short anti-stress exercises into the remote instruction and explicitly ask students about their stress levels.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a daytime writer for Inflow Education Tutoring Sydney, a tutoring organization in Sydney, specializing in Math and English Tutoring. She enjoys writing practical tips on education, parenting, family, and relationships.