Characteristics of an Effective Mathematics Classroom

Math manipulatives help children stay engaged while learning math concepts.
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Walking into a well-organized and motivational math classroom instills confidence and energy in math students. Learning course objectives, along with math manipulatives that are well-organized and accessible to students, should be evident in every effective math classroom.

1 Goal-Oriented Objectives

An effective math classroom has goals defined for students. The daily objective listed in the classroom along with the teacher explaining the expectations for the day's learning lets students know what they need to learn for the day. Students spend more time doing mathematics than listening to the teacher talk about mathematics in an effective classroom. A goal-oriented classroom helps children achieve those goals. A race car with students racing around the race track based on their multiplication fluency is an example of a goal-oriented classroom. An effective classroom also reevaluates the goals by assessment of the learning objectives for the day. An assessment can be as quick as a thumbs-up or thumbs-down question from the teacher to an exit slip of the concept.

2 Flexible Grouping

An effective classroom in math has students working in different types of groups and individually. The classroom setup is flexible enough to allow students to work with the teacher for instruction or with a partner playing a game. Places set up in the classroom for individual work as well as group work are important for an effective classroom. Students need to have time to work together to find solutions to problems that require exploration and input from group members.

3 Safe Environment

Students know where to place their finished assignments and pick up homework, and they know how to work on math assignments immediately upon entering the classroom. Having these expectations integrated into the daily routine helps students know what to expect and feel safe in the classroom. The teacher circulating in the classroom as the children work together on cooperative problems and games or work individually on concepts and math fluency helps to promote an effective and safe environment. Students who feel safe in the math classroom take risks in their problem solving, which leads to greater learning.

4 Organized Materials and Classroom

Students use different methods to solve problems. Supporting them with the materials they need involve providing a selection of accessible math manipulatives. Some students prefer using a number line to solve integer problems. Others may prefer two-colored math chips to solve the problem. Students should have access to either method they prefer. Giving students access to use the method and manipulatives they need to find a solution to problems is a sign of an effective classroom.

The classroom arranged in a comfortable manner encourages learning. The temperature and spacing of the room should be taken in consideration when the teacher sets up the learning for the day.

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.