How To Get Elementary Students Excited About Math

How to help students prepare for CCSS assessments

It’s that time of year again, setting up your classroom, preparing for Curriculum Night, making name tags, and meetings, meetings, meetings. Teachers work so hard to get everything ready for back-to-school, but we often forget to focus on the big idea, “How are we going to get our kids excited about learning this year?”. Every year at Curriculum Night, I told my students’ parents that it was my job to “infect their children with the love of math”. It’s no secret; math isn’t always the preferred subject of all kids, but what if it could be? Elementary school is a critical time in kids’ math education journey because they are building the foundational knowledge they will need in the future.

Want to get kids excited about math? Give these tips a try:

1. Computers
The current students in elementary school have grown up with technology. Many children are more proficient than adults using various programs. These digital natives enjoy almost anything more when presented on a computer; my niece loves to play her computer cooking game more than actually cooking with her mom in the kitchen. She says it’s because “it’s fast, easier, and on the computer”. Many teachers are starting to see the value in a blended learning approach, allowing students to learn using programs on the computer, in addition to learning in more traditional settings. If teachers are going to use their precious class time for computers, make it worth it. Choose high quality programs, especially that provides an intelligent adaptive learning engine. Students may also use computer time to play educational games or listen to math podcasts made especially for kids.

2. Daily Life
The most simplistic, but important math connection is to the child’s daily life. To answer the infamous question, “when am I going to use this in my real-life?”, teachers should always be asking themselves “why is this important?”. Elementary school students may have a difficult time understanding how math pertains to their daily lives. Helping them make the link will show them that learning math is not only worth it, but truly needed in their lives. Try baking brownies but with a double recipe, saving money with a percentage of their allowance, or budgeting a month of classroom bills. In my 6th grade class, my students had a checking account and paid rent on their desks, taxes to the classroom, and had to buy supplies throughout the month. They could also purchase frivolous and fun items, but they had to budget their accounts accordingly. It was a great learning lesson and the kids had a lot of fun!

3. Math Games/Logic Puzzles
Cultivating strong logic and critical thinking skills are an important part of teaching elementary school math, particularly as you prepare them to solve real-life math problems. In a game setting, students can learn, be flexible, work with others, and model for their peers. Dominoes, Yahtzee, and Sudoko are fun math games that can be used with almost any age group. Sudoko may sound too challenging for younger kids, but if they are working together, they are capable of accomplishing rigorous goals.

Math can be, and should be, a fun subject to teach and to learn. By adding a few extra dimensions into your classroom routine, you can inspire young mathematicians!

Kelly Urlacher

Curriculum Designer at DreamBox Learning
Kelly Urlacher began her career as a sixth grade teacher in Sammamish, WA in 2002. Shortly after, she received her Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Technology and Curriculum Development. After years of dedicating herself to students and education within the classroom, she earned her National Board Certification in 2009. Kelly currently works as a Curriculum Designer for DreamBox Learning and continues tutoring high school students in mathematics.