Great Math Lesson Series:

Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV Phase V
Introduce Stimulus Whole-class Activity Problem Solving Synthesis & Reinforcement Revision & Recap

This is the first of a five-part series on how to teach a great mathematics lesson, using a simple, purposeful template that can be adapted for any math topic and any age level.

First Phase: Introduce a Stimulus

Lots of math lessons fall down in the first ten seconds: “Who can tell me what ‘ratios’ are?” Seriously, which kid or teenager is going to want to answer such a question? Later in the lesson, there will be time for lots of questions. But ask such a question in the first few seconds? Never.

You know what they say about first impressions? You don’t get a second chance to make one. Well, it’s the same with teaching. I remember starting a lesson when I was a student teacher, saying “I’m now going to teach you about ‘protecting the environment’”, or some such thing. The children were polite enough not to groan out loud, but I could see the reactions immediately on their faces: Who wants to learn about THAT?

Measurement Lesson

So, what should a teacher do?

Start with something interesting, exciting, unusual, unexpected, surprising, creative or enticing – which is connected with today’s math topic. Such as:

  • Fractions – dress as a chef, bring in a chocolate cake, cut it into halves, then quarters, then eighths, and so on
  • Subtraction – sing “Ten Green Bottles” while animating green bottles on a PowerPoint slide
  • Percents – bring out a 25% off sale flyer for a department store, tell the children you’re going to buy a new outfit, but you’re not sure if you have enough money.
  • Linear equations – dress as a plumber, carry a plunger or wrench. Tell students you have a tank to fill with water. It already holds 50 liters (/litres), and water is being added from a tap at 3.6 L per minute. How can we tell how much water there will be in the tank after an hour? How long will it take to reach 250 L? Could we graph the amount of water in the tank over time?

The actual idea isn’t that important; the main thing is to grab students’ interest, connect it with the math topic, and then while they’re paying attention, start teaching. It will require some time and effort put into preparation, but the payoff should be students who look forward to their next math lesson!

Next phase: #2 Whole Class Teaching

Photo by author.

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