Strategies for teaching numeracy in the middle years

List and briefly describe five strategies you will use for teaching numeracy to middle years students.

To reinforce number patterns:

An activity Ian Howard endorsed (and made look fun!) during the Intensives was Finding Factors. Ian distributed square pieces of paper and 1/2s and 1/4s and 1/8s of that square to each table of four, and called out fractions for us to make, to show the different arrangements of a whole.

Fractions:

A hands-on whole class activity, students fold paper strips the same length into halves, thirds, quarters, fifths … and glue them onto a page to create a fraction wall. Not only is this a great visual, but students can be challenged to write as many number sentences  with addition or subtraction as they can.

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Open-ended tasks:

Various researchers have found that dealing with tasks or problems that have many possible solutions contributes to learning. In Teaching Mathematics: Using research-informed strategies,  Peter Sullivan describes how tasks with open goals (that is many possible solutions) can engage students in productive exploration, and that they enhance motivation through increasing the students’ sense of control. There are many types of open-ended tasks and the following elaborates just two types: content specific tasks and investigations like this one: Collect some sports balls, such as a basketball, a baseball, a table tennis ball, and tennis ball. Describe these balls. The intent of this task is that students will define the properties (such as dimensions, mass, texture) of the balls on which they will focus, and then find ways to both describe the individual balls and compare the characteristics of the balls. It requires students to make choices, describe, measure, record, explain, and justify, which constitute some of the desired mathematical actions.

Discovering a Pattern:

One method used in 9 Strategies for Motivating Students in Mathematics, setting up a contrived situation that leads students to “discovering” a pattern can often be quite motivating, as they take pleasure in finding and then “owning” an idea. An example could be adding the numbers from 1 to 100. Rather than adding in sequence, students add the first and last (1 + 100 = 101), and then the second and next-to-last (2 + 99 = 101), and so on. Then all one has to do to get the required sum is multiplying 50 X 101 = 5,050. The exercise will give students an enlightening experience.

Baking/cooking:

I put my youngest child’s love of maths, and in particular problem solving, to her love of baking with me as a child. In school, students given a baking task could shop for ingredients (money skills), follow a recipe that teaches responsibility and independence, and learn about measurement: doubling or halving ingredients that may include (different size) spoons, cups, fractions, litres, Celsius, Fahrenheit, cooking time in minutes, etc. And dividing the finished product is always interesting too!

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