How to Build a Strong Math Foundation - Make Sense of Math

How to Build a Strong Math Foundation

How to build a strong math foundation

Build a strong mathematical foundation.

A solid foundation is essential to a growing tower.

Mathematics continually builds on itself, without a solid foundation the tower will crumble.

Math foundations are built with conceptual understanding of mathematical properties.

Students must understand the "why" to mathematical practices. If students simply memorize an algorithm or learn by tips and tricks, their foundation is weak and will not sustain them throughout the mathematical journey.

Effective math teachers emphasize understanding and reasoning over rote memorization.

Here are 7 tips to build a strong mathematical foundation.

1. Introduce Concepts Visually: Use visual aids, manipulatives, and real-world examples to introduce mathematical concepts. I love using algebra tiles for algebra topics, and real-world examples for proportions, graphing, and statistics concepts. Make sure your students can concretely demonstrate a problem before moving to abstract representations. Bar models are also great for number sense.

2. Encourage Exploration and Inquiry: Use open-ended task problems that have multiple solution paths and promote critical thinking. I like to answer the students' question with a question to constnatly encourage thinking.

3. Emphasize Understanding: Focus on ensuring that students understand the why behind mathematical procedures and algorithms, rather than just memorizing steps. For example, when teaching multiplication, explore the concept as repeated addition or arrays before introducing standard algorithms.

4. Make Connections: Help students see connections between different
mathematical concepts and how they relate to each other. Using anchor charts is a great strategy to help students recall information and make connections from other topics.

Middle school math anchor charts

5. Provide Opportunities for Discussion: Encourage students to discuss and explain their mathematical thinking. Students can do this in pairs, small groups, or as a class. Encourage students to share their strategies, justify their reasoning, and critique the reasoning of others. Putting converstaion starters on your wall is a good strategy to help your students with discussions.

6. Gradually Build Fluency: Once students have a solid conceptual understanding of a mathematical concept, gradually introduce opportunities for practice and fluency. Students love fun worksheets, games and activities as a way to practice and reinforce conceptual understanding.

7th grade math activities             8th grade math activities

7. Use Formative Assessments: Continuously assess student understanding throughout the learning process. Using formative assessments such as as: exit tickets, quizzes and observations is a great way to gauge students' progress and adjust instruction accordingly.

By teaching math conceptually first and then focusing on fluency, you lay a strong foundation for deeper mathematical understanding and promote long-term retention of skills and concepts. This approach not only helps students develop mathematical proficiency but also fosters a positive attitude towards learning math.

Save this post for later

How to build a strong math foundation

Back to Top