Math & Teaching Methods


When planning their math instruction, teachers can select from an assortment of potentially-effective methods. To determine with method is best for your math learners, you should consider their strengths and weaknesses and try out an assortment of different teaching options. Evaluate student performance after each method used to determine which method or combination of methods will prove the most effective way to teach your students.


  • Traditionally, teachers use lecture heavily in math instruction. In many math classrooms throughout history educators have elected to teach new math topics by presenting their students with lectures in which they outline the history of the math topic and the steps necessary to complete math processes. While this method of instruction can prove effective when combined with other, more hands-on, methods, it is often inadequate when used alone as it doesn't allow students the chance to practice taught concepts. To use lecture effectively, pair it with another instructional method.

Cooperative Learning

  • In some classrooms, learning isn't an independent process, but instead something that pupils do together. Through the use of cooperative learning, teachers can allow students the opportunity to benefit from the strengths of their peers. Many teachers integrate cooperative learning into their instruction by allowing students to complete assignments in pairs or small groups. For optimal effectiveness, teachers should carefully select groups, pairing stronger students with weaker instead of allowing students to select their own pairings.

Model-Lead-Test Instruction

  • The Model-Lead-Test approach to math instruction is a highly-structured, three-step process of math instruction. To use this method, teachers must first teach the students a math strategy. They then lead students through practice of the strategy by working through problems with pupils as a whole class or in small groups. The teacher then concludes this instruction method by testing student understanding of the topic. Successful use of this approach requires that teachers administer two tests of student understanding and that teachers not move on until students have mastered the skill with at least 80 percent accuracy.

Constructivist Techniques

  • While some teachers elect to tell their students the rules of math, others want their students to discover these relationships themselves. Constructivist teaching requires that teachers engage students in experimentation and allow them to use the results of these experiments to reach their own conclusions. This method can prove effective in teaching some math concepts, but is difficult to use when teaching basic math skills, such as addition or subtraction, as these skills are so basic that students can't easily discover their existence but must instead be told about them and have them demonstrated directly.


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