The 10 Things That Worry Math Teachers the Most

Issues and Possible Solutions

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While all curriculum areas share some of the same issues and concerns, math teachers have issues that are specific with regard to students. Most students can read and write by the middle elementary school years. Math, however, can be intimidating to students, particularly as they advance from basic addition and subtraction to fractions and even to algebra and geometry. To help math teachers cope with these issues, this list looks at the top 10 concerns for math teachers, along with some possible answers.

01
of 10

Prerequisite Knowledge

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Math curriculum often builds on information learned in previous years. If a student does not have the required prerequisite knowledge, then a math teacher is left with the choice of either remediation or forging ahead and covering material the student might not understand.

02
of 10

Connections to Real Life

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Consumer math is easily connected to daily life. However, it can often be hard for students to see the connection between their lives and geometry, trigonometry, and even basic algebra. When students do not see why they have to learn a topic, this impacts their motivation and retention. Teachers can get around this by giving real-life examples showing where students might use the math concepts being taught, particularly in upper-level math.

03
of 10

Cheating

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Unlike courses where students have to write essays or create detailed reports, math is often reduced to solving problems. It can be difficult for a math teacher to determine if students are cheating. Typically, math teachers use wrong answers and incorrect solving methods to determine if students did, in fact, cheat.

04
of 10

Math Block

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Some students have come to believe over time that they are just not good at math. This type of attitude can result in students failing to even try to learn certain topics. Fighting this self-esteem-related issue can be difficult, but pulling students aside individually to reassure them can help pupils overcome math block. Judy Willis, in her book, "Learning to Love Math," suggests that math teachers can boost student confidence with strategies such as "errorless math," where "teachers or peer tutors provide verbal or gesture prompts to increase the probability of a correct response, which eventually becomes a correct answer."

05
of 10

Varying Instruction

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The teaching of mathematics does not lend itself to a great deal of varied instruction. While teachers can have students present material, work in small groups for certain topics, and create multimedia projects dealing with math, the norm of a math classroom is direct instruction followed by a period of solving problems.

06
of 10

Dealing With Absences

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When students miss a math class at key instructional points, it can be difficult for them to catch up. For example, if a student is absent on the first few days when a new topic is being discussed and explained, such as solving for variables, a teacher will be faced with the issue of helping that student learn the material on her own.

07
of 10

Timely Grading

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Math teachers, more than educators in many other curriculum areas, need to keep up with the daily grading of assignments. It does not help a student to have a paper returned a few weeks after the unit has been completed. Only by seeing what mistakes they have made and working to correct those will students be able to use that information effectively. Giving immediate feedback is particularly important for math teachers.

08
of 10

After-School Tutoring

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Math teachers typically have many demands on their before- and after- school time from students who need extra help. This may require a greater dedication on the part of math teachers, but the extra help is usually vital to help students understand and master the topics being learned.

09
of 10

Varying Student Abilities

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Math teachers often have classes with students of varying ability levels within the same classroom. This might result from gaps in prerequisite knowledge or students' individual feelings in regard to their ability to learn math. Teachers must decide how to meet the needs of the individual students in their classrooms, possibly through additional tutoring (as discussed previously) or sitting down with students to assess their abilities and reassure them of their ability to succeed.

10
of 10

Homework Issues

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Math curriculum often requires daily practice and review for mastery. Therefore, the completion of daily homework assignments is essential to learning the material. Students who do not complete their homework or who copy from other students often struggle at test time. Dealing with this issue is often very difficult for math teachers.