7 principles of an effective math classroom

Imagine yourself in a classroom of students eager to learn math concepts. Picture students excited about math because you’re sparking their inner mathematicians. See your students as interested, engaged, and even having fun!

In an effective math classroom, students build math skills and confidence. Anxiety begins to fade and achievement soars because:

1. Every person is a math person.

The days of the “you either have it or you don’t” approach to math are gone. Mindsets about math are shifting. Teachers today are presenting math as a subject all students can work on and improve. Help students work on the problem while focusing on the reasoning behind a math concept rather than on the answer. Every person is a math person, even if they don’t know it yet.

2. Every student practices at the right level.

Key to math achievement is having students practice at the optimal level of challenge. It’s important to know where students are at and provide foundational and skills practice at the unique levels students need to grow. Connect students with the right math concepts, at the right level of challenge, and at the right time. When students practice at the right level, they build incremental confidence.

girl in front of greenboard
girl in front of greenboard

3. Every student has realistic goals and a path to growth.

Teachers who know what every student already understands can help students set attainable goals. Students with personalized goals experience greater growth because they are appropriately challenged, yet not frustrated. As students work toward goals, they begin to take ownership of their practice and develop a growth mindset. They begin to believe they can achieve anything through hard work and perseverance.

4. Every student experiences math in a ‘social’ environment.

Literature teachers bring discussions into the learning process, and they prove valuable in math classrooms as well. Teachers facilitate learning by encouraging students to talk about math. Discussing math encourages students to reflect on and share their understanding of concepts and can also reduce anxiety. Ask students what they notice and wonder about a math problem. Provide sentence starters to familiarize students with how to start and sustain a math conversation.

5. Every student experiences a bit of productive struggle.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics considers the right amount of productive struggle essential to learning math with understanding. It’s not necessary to tell students everything before they solve a problem. When students are given enough time to struggle with difficult problems, it helps reinforce their growth mindset. Students begin to realize that, with effort, they are capable of doing well in math.

6. Every student takes part in peer collaboration.

Consider having students work in pairs or small groups. Ask them to share ways they’ve approached their own unique problems for a math subskill. Model protocols for questioning, listening, and responding to others. Encourage students to work collaboratively, apply knowledge at various levels of depth, and engage in mathematical discourse. When students make sense of and critique their peers’ ideas, they create deep, connected math knowledge.

7. Every student receives frequent feedback and praise.

Review progress in various timeframes to determine what’s working, what isn’t, and, what to do next. Check in with students one-on-one to give encouragement, catch problems early, and offer self-correction strategies. Ask guiding questions and let students do most of the talking so you can get a sense of their thought processes and strategies used. This interaction will help you determine next steps.

Make your math classroom more effective.

Learn how Renaissance Accelerated Math® saves you time grouping students, all while enabling you to encourage collaborative learning and monitor students’ progress toward grade-level standards in your state.

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