The Crisis in Math Teaching – What Works?

1There is a lot of discussion on what is the most effective way to teach mathematics. As a result even the teaching curriculum is being supported by the national government in effort to make math teaching up to par with high achieving nations. The common core standards that are presently being implemented are going to take training and commitment for adequate implementation. At the same time, there are critics who say that the common core standards are created without child development in mind and while it may look “general” it is actually a very intense and demanding curriculum. Still, intense and demanding is not a bad thing but there are shortfalls of this approach as well. First, schools and students will need consistent parent assistance. To be successful in the common core mathematics, math needs to become an every day practice. Just as we teach students to read and memorize letters and spelling patterns, we should have them master basic operations with equal accuracy. However, for years now, schools have been emphasizing “discovery math” during which each child creates their own algorithm for solving problems. And this approach is fun in first grade, but it has served a great disadvantage to most children. Students simply can’t come up with their own algorithm for solving long division or fractions conversions. We can’t escape having students master time tables and expect them to be successful math problem solvers. From my personal experience, the primary years are crucial in child’s success in math. Everything from patterns and skip counting in kindergarten, basic operations in grades 1 & 2, and more complex math in grade 5 is important for the future success in algebra and university. Teachers are able to assess students’ problem areas in 4th and 5th grade already. Achievement in 5th grade math is a strong predictor of future success. We don’t have to wait till high school to predict performance in math, which is why staring with grades 4 and 5, students need to experience intense conceptual math, not for the sake of assessment but for the sake of learning and joy of math.

What works in math teaching/learning:

Break-up the instruction into chunks.

Present it gradually.

Identify the trouble spots and re-teach.

Khan Academy’s videos are a good tool.

Worksheets are a solid knowledge reinforcers.

Practice fundamental operations daily.

Provide reviews of material covered.

What doesn’t work:

Teaching one way.

Expecting students to figure it out on their own all the time.

Not re-teaching.

Making students feel bad about not mastering material at slower pace.

Bad attitude.

Ignoring learning theories and brain studies.


Instructional Resources: 

Grade 5 Common Core Math Worksheets: 

Grade 5 common core math



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