As teachers, we all know the importance of number skills and the impact this can have on the little mathematicians in our classroom. I am a firm believer that a strong understanding of number can help a student in EVERY area of mathematics. Teaching it well is so important.
Today, I sat down to reflect upon the 5 things that I do to make my number sense lessons powerful in order for my students to gain a deep understanding of the skills and concepts. However, this cannot be achieved overnight. It is a process that over time that positively impacts students:
1. Lay your Foundations
Like a house, the foundation is oh so important. Take your time. Make sure your students understand each concept before moving on. I think this is particularly important in relation to place value. Having a strong understanding of place value and how our number system works from the very beginning is really going to help our students as they progress through their learning journey in math.
2. Explicit Teaching!
Each skill needs to be taught explicitly in a logical order. Assuming a student understands a concept from years earlier is a crucial error we can make. Explicit teaching is the ideal time to help students make connections between concepts and ideas. It can take many forms, including whole class instruction and modelling, guided groups, small group work or working one-on-one (if you are able to manage this in your classroom). Pretesting your students can help you work out where the highest needs are in your class or to group students according to what they need.
3. Make it Hands-On
I can’t support this idea enough. Kids learn by using concrete materials and manipulatives (even as they get older). I begin my school year by focusing purely on number skills. I pre-test, explicitly teach and then set up foundations for students to work on investigations and hands-on activities to put their learning into practise. These activities can constantly be pulled out for early finishers, quick warmups, math rotations and I differentiate them to suit my learners. All that aside, students enjoy hands-on activities and games - and enjoyment promotes the best kind of learning.
4. Cater for Different Learning Styles
We all know everyone doesn’t learn the same way and this can be most evident in math lessons. Teaching number skills and then allowing students to work on developing these in different ways to suit their learning style can be such a powerful learning opportunity. It requires some flexibility, but consider visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, verbal learning styles and whether students prefer to work with others or alone.
5. Review and Revise
At the beginning of EVERY SINGLE TERM I start with a week dedicated to number skills. It helps reinforce ideas, sets students up for the term and also allows them to pick up on new skills, ideas and concepts they may not have been ready for before. Your daily math warmup is also another way to be constantly revise your number concepts and get your students brains thinking!
Teaching number skills well is a valuable gift you can give your students. It sets them up for success in Mathematics and in turn they will develop an enjoyment for it.
Stuck with for ideas or lessons to teach number skills? We have a set of ‘Hands on Number’ learning packs that could help. Each pack contains curriculum links, a detailed teacher differentiation guide, hands on tasks for your students with recording sheets/prompts, assessment ideas and checklists! Click on the links below to learn more:
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