Getting Young Kids to Love Learning Math

Elementary math is incredibly important! A strong, elementary math education will leave a lasting impact on any child. As a 6th grade teacher for ten years, I had students come into my classroom either liking or hating math. In the beginning of the school year, I would ask them to write about their math experience so I could get to know them. Since their feelings spanned such a spectrum, I was always interested in what molded their feelings about math. The majority of their math experiences were centered on a teacher, parent, or skill.

The kids that already liked math talked about a teacher that made it fun and creative, or how they felt successful in math skills, or how their parents brought math into their daily life at home. The students that did not like math would write about a teacher, a skill they didn’t like (such as multiplication facts), or a parent that also “wasn’t good at math” so they weren’t going to be “good at math”. I knew it was my goal to “infect” these kids with the LOVE of math, or at least the love of learning math. I had my work cut out for me, but I ended every year in the classroom feeling the satisfaction of knowing that I did everything I could to make math fun, student-centered, and interesting.

Now that I am out of the traditional classroom, I still have the same goals to make math fun, creative, student-centered, and interesting. Now I accomplish this through completely different venue, DreamBox Learning’s lessons. I believe that as a compliment to a classroom teacher, the DreamBox lessons work with young students to help them discover and learn math.

Elementary math is the foundation to a child’s math education, practice, and math confidence. Getting kids excited and interested in math at a young age is of the utmost importance. Math literacy is an important 21st century skill. Using math activities for kids that engage them in the learning process will play a huge role in helping them become active in their own learning and become critical thinkers in math.

One education technology breakthrough that can assist children in becoming engaged in learning math is an adaptive learning software. This incorporates an interactive process. It allows the software to place a child into the level that meets their needs. Educators already know that the best pacing for a child to learn is when they are challenged enough to think, puzzle, inquire, and discover, but not too challenging that they become frustrated. Adaptive learning software can differentiate for each student the concepts they are ready to work on.
Kids want to have the opportunity to learn at their own pace. This is not always easy in the classroom where the teacher is working with 25 kids at the same time. Pushing young students to move onto more challenging concepts before they’re ready can cause them to get discouraged and lose confidence in math. To prevent this from happening, students should be given the time and encouragement to learn at their own pace. Adaptive learning software can be a great tool for this because it customizes the pacing and presentation of each new lesson to make sure that students fully understand what they’re learning before building on that knowledge with new math concepts.

Another way to get kids excited about math is connecting math from school with real-world applications. It isn’t always easy to find a connection, but in showing kids how these concepts can be applicable in their daily lives, they instantly make a connection. Teachers often use something that has value for really young students, such as coins or sharing snacks. Another option is to challenge the students to find a real-life application for the math that they are learning in class. Children will then ask their parents how they use math every day and it becomes an easy way to connect math in the classroom at home too. Realizing that they’ll actually use what they’re learning outside of school will positively affect their interest in the lesson.

Sometimes, stealth math instruction is one of the more effective ways to get students to learn new concepts. To get elementary school students interested in math, they’ll need to think it’s fun, so make it into a game! Trigger their imaginations by turning basic math concepts into age appropriate word problems, or giving them logic puzzles or basic Sudoku puzzles to solve. Math-themed computer games can also be helpful tools.

Want to learn more about intelligent adaptive learning? Check out our latest white paper, here.

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.