Making math engaging and fun

Math can be a challenging subject for many students, and every student will engage with your class content in different ways. We need to help them see that math is fascinating, how it affects everyday life and how it continually shapes the world we live in.

Engaging students in math is a balancing act. It’s all about striking that magic balance between building knowledge and skills, and the natural wonder and curiosity of learning. Every student should have a rich experience.

Why is it important to engage students in math?

Mathematics equips students with uniquely powerful ways to describe, analyse and change the world. Math helps to develop critical thinking and decision making skills. People who are functional in math are independent thinkers who can reason, problem solve, and risk assess. Surprisingly math is described as a creative discipline. The language of mathematics is international. It transcends cultural boundaries and its importance is universally recognized.

When we talk about student engagement, we refer to a learner’s interest and excitement for learning. When our students are engaged, they are invested in learning. This makes them more likely to persevere through challenges.

Why is student engagement important?

Student engagement in math is incredibly important. If students are engaged they will:

  1. have a better attitude toward school.
  2. participate in class
  3. complete and submit their homework
  4. persevere through more challenging problems
  5. produce higher quality work
  6. attend school more consistently
  7. develop a deeper understanding of the content
  8. perform better on standardized assessments

Students who are engaged in a math lesson may demonstrate this in many different ways, including:

  1. actively listening
  2. asking and answering questions
  3. using class hand signals to communicate
  4. nodding or shaking their head
  5. looking at the person who is talking
  6. following teacher cues
  7. telling a partner how they solved a problem
  8. reading math problems
  9. writing about which strategy they selected and why
  10. solving a math problem using math manipulatives
  11. presenting a math project to the class

How to boost student engagement in math

Every student learns differently. That means that every student will also engage with lessons in a different way and at a different pace. That in turn means that there isn’t one magic recipe to boost every student’s engagement level in our math classes. By building some of the six strategies below into your math lessons, new life might just be breathed into your classroom. You may start to see students being more engaged, collaborating more, and solving more math problems independently, and willingly.

6 strategies for engaging math lessons

1. Use games and puzzles

Games and puzzles are a great way to get students engaged in math. They can help students learn new concepts, practice their skills, and have fun at the same time.

2. Use real-world examples

When students can see how math is used in the real world, they are more likely to be interested in learning it. For example, you could talk about how math is used to build houses, design cars, or calculate the cost of groceries.

3. Make it relevant to students' lives

Math is all around us, so try to find ways to make it relevant to students' lives. For example, you could ask students to calculate the amount of money they spend on snacks each week or the number of steps they take in a day.

4. Use a variety of teaching methods.

Not all students learn in the same way, so it's important to use a variety of teaching methods. This could include using direct instruction, problem solving, cooperative learning, and hands-on activities.

5. Personalizing the learning experience for every student

Recognizing that each learner is unique, we advocate for personalizing math instruction to cater to individual needs and interests. By incorporating diverse learning styles, providing choices, and offering a range of challenging or open-ended problems, we can empower students to take ownership of their learning journey.

6. Integrating technology into math classrooms

Embracing technology can revolutionize math learning by making it interactive, visual, and immersive. Educational apps, online simulations, virtual manipulatives, and interactive whiteboards provide opportunities for exploration, practice, and engagement beyond traditional textbooks.

Webinar: Building Agency, Power and Engagement Through Numeracy

this on-demand session was originally recorded as part of our virtual Mission Math event. Listen along to Brea Ratliff, board member of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics as she navigates the landscape on building agency in math. The ability to work fluently with numbers and mathematical operations is a crucial prerequisite for future studies in mathematics as well as mathematics and science-based careers.

6 resources to promote engagement in math

  1. Online Math Games: Interactive games that combine learning and fun, making math enjoyable for all ages.
  2. Math Apps: Mobile applications, like Equatio, are designed to engage learners through gamified math practice and interactive challenges.
  3. Math Websites: Online platforms offering a variety of math activities, lessons, and resources to cater to different learning styles.
  4. Virtual Manipulatives: Digital tools that simulate physical manipulatives, providing a hands-on experience for learners. Check out Equatio mathspace as a great example of this.
  5. Competitions: Participating in math competitions can inspire students to excel, while fostering a sense of camaraderie and achievement.
  6. Clubs and Enrichment Programs: Joining math clubs or enrolling in enrichment programs can provide additional opportunities for exploration and learning beyond the classroom.

Teaching Methods for Math

There are many different ways to teach math, and the best method for a particular student will vary depending on their learning style. Each teacher is the master of their own art, and we’re not here to tell you how to teach. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common teaching methods in the math classroom.

Direct instruction

Direct instruction is a teacher-centered approach that involves the teacher providing clear and concise explanations of mathematical concepts. Students are then given opportunities to practice the concepts through guided practice and independent practice.

Problem solving

Problem solving is a student-centered approach that involves students working independently or in groups to solve mathematical problems. Students are encouraged to use a variety of strategies to solve problems, and they are given opportunities to reflect on their solutions.

Cooperative learning

Cooperative learning is an instructional approach that involves students working together in small groups to achieve a common goal. Students are assigned roles within the group, and they are responsible for helping each other learn the material.

Inclusive math instruction

Inclusive instruction in the math classroom means that all students, regardless of their background, abilities, or learning styles, have the opportunity to succeed. This type of instruction is characterized by a focus on equity and access, as well as a commitment to creating a supportive and welcoming learning environment. Learn more about inclusive education in our dedicated guide.

What's next?

The importance of teaching math

On this page, we delve into the importance of teaching math and how it influences every aspect of our lives, from personal finances to scientific discoveries.

Teaching math to students with learning differences

Here, we’ll address the challenges faced by students with learning differences, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, offering valuable insights and adaptable techniques to empower all learners to excel in math.

Promoting Equity in the Math Classroom

Equity is at the core of our educational philosophy, and we delve into creating a math classroom that embraces diversity, fosters inclusivity, and ensures every student has an equal opportunity to succeed.