As a math teacher, I can't even tell you how many times a student would excuse their poor math work with the comment, "Well, I'm just not a math person." What was even more horrifying, is when a PARENT would excuse the poor math work of the student with the comment, "Well, I'm not a math person, so he/she is not a math person." There does not exist two categories of math people or not math people. However, I do believe that there exists two categories of people who know how to learn math and people who do not know how to learn math. The great thing is that these categories are flexible and you can easily teach your students to belong to the "I know how to learn math" category. Here are 7 steps to help your students be successful in the math classroom.

1 1) Daily
engagement

Stress the difference between engagement and participation. Participating students may simply be copying
notes. Engaging students may be copying notes and trying to internalize the
notes by making connections. Engagement
encourages the use of higher-order thinking skills. In order for students to
engage daily, your classroom instruction needs to promote critical thinking
skills.

2) Learn from mistakes

Encourage students to never erase mistakes. Instead have them leave their mistakes, and
with a different color they can mark and explain their mistakes. Continually model this to students by marking
your mistakes on the board. A safe
environment is required for students to feel safe to do this step. Celebrate mistakes as a step in learning.

3) Ask critical questions

An example of a non-critical question is, “What’s the next step?” An example of a critical question is, “How do
ratios connect with the circumference of a circle?” Make a poster of words that help create
critical questions. You could teach them
Bloom’s taxonomy, and classify different questions for each level. Consistently point out and praise critical
questions in the classroom.

4) Show all your thinking

Teach students different ways to show their thinking. This can include in writing, with models,
diagrams, equations, expressions, etc... Showing calculations depends on the
level of the student. Teach students to
write in complete sentences. Students should
label their models and diagrams. Do not
accept low quality with this step.
Consistently push the students to do more and more. Have them redo the assignment over and over
until they are showing quality work.

5) Don’t cut corners

Students often just want to “be done” with the problem. To help students to not cut corners, assign fewer
problems, but require quality. Cutting
corners causes students to make mistakes and not critically think through the
problem.

6) Make connections

When students make connections they will retain the information more
easily. Many times connections are not
obvious and you will need to guide them to discover different connections. Connections between algebra and geometry are
critical to understanding higher-level mathematics. Consistently push them to find connections.

7) Be humble

Humility
is essential for students to learn mathematics.
The students that think they are “bright” are often those students who
learn very quickly, mostly because they can memorize. These students often don’t think they need to
explain their thinking, because they already have the correct answer. Don’t let these students cut corners. Push these students to ask higher-order
thinking skills. The students who
struggle often don’t want you to know that they will struggle, so they will
erase mistakes and try to cover up their weaknesses. Having a positive environment that values
mistakes will help these students.