Connecting Math to Student’s Interest

 

students interested in math

So, we all have had that one kid that just hates math, or that one kid who is bored because they don’t see the meaning to learning math. Okay, if we are really being honest, we know quite a few of these kids … quite a few each year!  Flash back to my beginning years teaching. I naïvely thought if I was a positive upbeat  teacher I could get 100% of my kids involved and excited! And, boy did I try hard! And it worked … 100% all the time! Just kidding! I did get some students engaged,but  I still had kids that just didn’t like math or see the relevance in math no matter what I did!

Somewhere along the way I had a sort of “aha” moment. I was making a quilt for my friend’s soon to be born baby girl. I was measuring, cutting, moving shapes around and organizing patterns. I realized that I was having FUN and using MATH!  I started thinking about how I could help my students use their own hobbies and interests to understand and see the meaning in learning Math.

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To get everyone involved, I spent time showing my students my hobby, sewing, and explained how I used Math skills to successfully make quilts, clothing, etc… Then I asked my students about their interests and hobbies and we discussed Math involved.  Afterwards I brought in as much Math “stuff” as I could to make connections!  For example, I went to a few Houston Rockets basketball games with my husband and I would bring the program to school so my basketball loving kids could use them to see the Math in the stats, etc. I found project books and books with records, graphs, charts, etc… related to kids hobbies/interests. As the years went on we got internet friendly computers in the classroom and I was able to find a lot of meaningful websites with statistics on Sports, travel, sewing, music, you name it!

volleyball math

 

There is Math everywhere … crafts, sports, party planning, cars, traveling, weather, current events, cooking, taking care of pets, video games, building, planting a garden, and so much more! I make it a point to get to know my students’ interests and hobbies so I can relate their interests to Math as often as possible! Sometimes this means pulling up a website and giving them a task or assignment, but sometimes it is as simple as just asking questions and being  such as “How do you think decimals relate to basketball?” or “What kind of Math skills do you need to know to raise and take care of a horse?” 

math meaningful

Keeping up with my students interests is important for establishing good relationships and also for finding connections in Math! I can use their knowledge in their areas of interest to help them build confidence in Math! 

 legos and math

Resources for Decimals

In my last post I shared some of my strategies for helping students understand decimals. Today I would like to expand on that and share some of my favorite resources!

  1. Scholastic Study Jams has a great tutorial on decimal place value which can be found here for FREE!
  2. MathAntics has a great FREE video which explains fractions and decimals in terms of powers of ten and place value:

3.  K5Learning has Free decimal worksheets!

4. I have card games with fraction models on my TpT page which are great for naming, matching, comparing and ordering decimals:

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Making Sense of Decimals

Recently I have been working with my 4th graders on decimals. We have been identifying decimals, naming decimals, comparing decimals, adding and subtracting decimals. For some students decimals can be daunting at first, but I have a few strategies to help them understand and be successful!

  1. Money! Get out the money and review  the relationships between dollars, dimes and pennies.  Give students a set amount such as $2.37 and ask them to show you with the money and write it out. Most students will already know how to write the amount of money with the decimal. Help the students who need it.  This is a great time to ask the students what “the little dot” is called (decimal point) and what it means.  If no one knows, fill them in. Then lead the discussion to the meaning of the words “tenths” and “hundredths” and relate again to money.

decimoney

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Make a Math Scavenger Hunt!

scavengerhunt

A Math Scavenger Hunt is a great way to get your students moving while they are practicing Math skills!  Type up or write some problems for your students, number them and post them around the classroom or homeschool room!  Give them a piece of paper or a fancy “record sheet” to record their answers as they work around the room.  This is also a fun way for parents to review skills with their children at home before a test!

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