One question that comes up so frequently when I talk to people about student-centered learning is,” but how can you do this with math?”. Honestly, it’s a really valid question. Math is very black and white, right or wrong. It doesn’t leave much for interpretation.
So how in the world can you make it hands-on without going over the information in a traditional teacher-led fashion? If you read our article, “Student-Centered Math: Teaching Numbers “Hands-On” by guest blogger Kelcee Calloura, you’ll see some great idea she has for how she makes math hands-on every day in the classroom.
A great way to continue this as if you, of course, flip the classroom, having the students learn the contents of how to solve the math task at hand, and then using class time for deeper interpretation and hands-on activities with the numbers themselves. It’s not just math that snags people though. One thing is for sure: sometimes it’s not necessarily about the hands-on math resources themselves, but how to find them.
Hands-On Resources in Math
For younger grades in mathematics, there truly are a number of fantastic hands-on resources out there that help create a game based element to math, which is a little bit easier to incorporate into your classroom. One great game is Prodigy, which it seems like the kids simply cannot get enough of. It’s extremely competitive and one of those games where they completely forget that the purpose of it is to be practicing math. I suggest you check it out.
I came across a fantastic bunch of resources from education.com that takes common math concepts and turns them into great little activities. Below is the example of one such activity for students who are learning about coins and decimal points. it takes no time at all to set up, supplies that you pretty much have on hand already, and is a trip for the students who are taking part in the activity.
It’s a rare student who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt and a rare teacher who doesn’t want kids to be able to learn the fundamentals of money math. Here’s an activity that puts them all together for learning and fun.
What You Need:
Index cards or scrap paper
What You Do:
- Figure out a treasure hunt route around your classroom, school or playground with four or five destinations. Then, use the Secret Code Key (below) to spell out a clue card for each location. Let’s say, for example, you place a clue under your desk. Spell out “under the desk” in code, and send students there to find the card. Then, under the desk, place another card listing the next destination, and so forth.
- As per the example, the treasure hunt clues have two “levels.” First, the students match a number to a letter. Then, they will count up all the “cents” to make a total.
- At the end of the treasure hunt, have students bring all five cards to a table, and finish all card totals. Now, to bring it all home, invite the students to count out the totals in real money! Using pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, can they make $1.06? $1.25?
- Then, with all five piles of coins together, what is the grand total?
Here’s the Code Breaker with an example of a coded message:
____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____!
.25 .15 .21 .03 .01 .14 .04 .15 .09 .20
Secret Code Key:
A = .01
B = .02
C = .03
D = .04
E = .05
F = .06
G = .07
H = .08
I = .09
J = .10
K = .11
L = .12
O = .15
P = .16
Q = .17
R = .18
S = .19
T = .20
U = .21
V = .22
W = .23
X = .24
Y = .25
Z = .26
If you like this activity or interested in finding other ones like it, you can check out education.com Resource Bank found here. There is also a number of different other grade level specific hands-on resources for preschool through fifth grade.
While the particular activity above focuses in on addition in a math class, there are also a number of other subject areas that you can get activities from as well. Subjects include anything from coding, to fine arts, to Ela and even social-emotional learning. There is even a specific section for English learners. You have not yet checked out education.com and their resources, certainly take the time to do so.
Sometimes coming up with hands-on resources can be challenging, but when you find a resource like education.com and their huge bag of activities, it makes it much easier. You may always have to tweak and activity to meet your specific student’s needs, but that is not a big deal (and is something you should constantly be doing anyway!).
It also allows itself to differentiate well for the students. You may tweak and activity for one level versus another, or find something that is completely different to give different levels of students that are still covering the same information. That is the beauty of hands-on learning and it doesn’t get much more student-centered than that.
The resource bank from education.com shows that it is possible to be hands-on with a number of different grades, topics, and levels of ability. If you need something quick for a holiday or other such non-curriculum-based moment in your classroom, this is a great place to look as well. There is certainly no shame in taking a resource from someone who is already put the thought into how to make it.
When I first started student-centered learning, a lot of the resources that I got were from other people who had already created them. My very first year of teaching, my mentor couldn’t have been more clear with the idea that when it comes to teaching, don’t reinvent the wheel!
For sure, we all have fantastic ideas, but when there are some things that are a little bit more basic, most likely somebody else has already created an activity for it and you can borrow their thoughts with their permission.
Of course, you never want to take an activity and just straight use it without making sure it’s appropriate for your students, but it’s a great template to help you move forward in your classroom with an idea that you had brewing, but couldn’t necessarily get down into an assignment, or simply didn’t have the time to put it together. Education.com is a great example are they trustworthy source to gain resources from. I highly suggest you check them out!