Monday, January 25, 2016

Math Monday: Strategies for Struggling Students

OMG is a math game that is super motivating for middle school math students.

Happy Math Monday! 
Raise your hand if you’ve had a student say any of the following:

“I don’t get it!”
“I hate math.”
“I can’t do math.”
“This is too hard.”
“I give up!”

Ugh!  The struggle is real.  I hope you enjoy this blog hop and take away a couple of ideas and/or resources to help improve student learning and enjoyment of mathematics.


I recently left my amazing full-time job with awesome coworkers and students to steal back some time at home with my 9 month old son.  To stay involved in education, I am so excited to share that I am now working as a part-time math interventionist with fifth and eighth graders.

I have always taught 8th grade, but 5th grade was a little bit of culture shock for me!  Every day – wait no – every period is SO different.  I work with a variety of types of learners, but the overwhelming majority are kids who “don’t like math.”

Day one – with no preparation – I was given a group of eighth graders to launch a new remediation program with.  I sat at a round table with a group of teenagers as unmotivated as they come.  I glanced at the packet on equivalent fractions that I was given to “cover” with them, took a deep breath, and did my best to get these students excited about fractions.

That day we got the work done, but I left there buzzing with thoughts.  These students hate fractions.  We are covering fifth grade math.  They never really learned it the first, second, third, etc time around.  And they want me to do… worksheets???

I checked in with the teacher to see if it was okay if I supplemented with some of my own resources, then made my way home at the end of the day, head spinning with ideas.

That night I sat down and made OMG Equivalent Fractions for these kids.  I needed to make learning fun and interesting!  Math is cool!  Math can be entertaining!  We can learn and have fun at the same time.  J 

I am so happy to say that the following day, these “too cool for school” eighth grade girls and boys were so excited to play a game modeled after a childhood favorite.  I played with several other groups and each time they loved it and asked for more!  Most importantly, they were learning the concept!

As classroom teachers, we need to make sure students have a balance of traditional learning and discovery-based, hands-on, interactive fun.  If you’re having trouble motivating your students to “do the work,” try meeting them in the middle.  You can find tons of card games, scavenger hunts, BINGO games, and more at my store, Free to Discover.

Check out the links below to read posts by other amazing secondary math teachers!

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  1. What a great story...and love the idea of jumping in with games. There are so many ways to practice skills that don't involve worksheets. Thanks so much for sharing.


  2. Amanda, I truly believe discovery-based learning is the best! It would be ideal if we were given the time to explore deeply by having less content to cover. I think we would do less remedial teaching and our students would truly thrive.

  3. Amanda, the most touching thing about this story is that you walked in and decided to meet the students where they were at. I think you thus established a sense of trust which enabled you to get the best from them. And then, you made a game for them, showing them that you wanted them to enjoy the experience, as well as giving them some agency in the classroom. Truly awesome!

  4. Amanda,
    I am a mom who never quite got over the "I don't like math" hump. I am now, probably by little coincidence, raising a "I don't like math" son. Entering his third year (6th grade), of what we in my house call "serious math". His teachers have been great thus far, because my son is a wonderful student who truly wants to do his best. I have been scouring the internet for tidbits & new ways of making it fun for both of us. Your website has been such a light! We really made some headway last year & I just don't want him to fall back into the abyss of being intimidated by math. Thank you for sharing & caring so much about students like my son. Thank you & never stop, your light is reaching farther than you know!

  5. Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so honored to be able to share my thoughts on math education with others. This message was exactly the pick-me-up I needed today! :)