Teaching math in the primary grades requires you to think creatively and find ways to engage your students in ways that deepen their understandings of the lessons. The best way to do this is to utilize activities that put the math concepts you're teaching into a practical context, so that the kids can see and understand how they can use these processes in everyday life.
Manipulatives provide a physical context for math lessons, which helps young students to actually see how the math works. This is especially important for visual and physical learners, who might struggle with abstract concepts. Manipulatives can be any set of objects that students can hold and organize in a way that represents a math problem. For example, you can have children complete place-value addition problems by having them stack groups of blocks, or teach basic multiplication by having them place groups of beads into different compartments of an egg carton.
Dice games are another way to transform standard lessons into activities that educate, engage and entertain your students. For example, you can have students pair up and then have each student in the pair roll the dice. After each player rolls, the other player must add the two numbers on the dice. Depending on their ability levels, you can even have them record the sums of all their rolls, and then add the sums together. You can even use dice for simple recognition games. You can have each child roll the dice until he or she rolls a double, and then have the other student start rolling. This type of game can help young students learn how to recognize what groups of certain number values look like.
Playing cards are also useful tools for teaching math to primary grade students. For example, you can use cards to help students develop their understandings of basic math facts. Split the class into groups, and deal seven cards to each student in each group. Write a number on the board and ask the students to show any way in which they can make that number with addition. If you wrote "8" on the board, for instance, students could display two "4" cards, or a "5" and a "3" or even just an "8." The first student in each group to use all of his or her cards wins.
Full Class Activities
Instead of manipulatives, dice or cards, you can even use your students themselves to demonstrate math concepts. Have 10 students stand up and then ask those students a question, such as "Who among you has any brothers?" Any students who answer "yes" must sit down. Call on someone who was not one of the 10 standing students, and ask him or her how many students just sat down. Then, ask another child how many students are still standing. You can then write the math problem you've illustrated on the board: 10 - 4 (assuming four students sat down) = 6.
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