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Inclusivity in maths: From reluctant learner to maths enthusiast

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Inclusivity in maths: From reluctant learner to maths enthusiast

iMaths 20/2/23


Note: iMaths is in its final year and will be discontinued at the end of 2024. If you’re looking for a primary maths resource written for the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0, explore Maths Trek.

Every teacher knows when a student has disengaged from maths. They’re the student who sits slouched in their chairs, eyes blank or anxious, waiting for the bell to ring.

How can we include and inspire those students? How can we prove to them that maths does not equal boredom or fear? How can we show them that maths can unlock the world?

The answer: Investigations! Try these 3 tips to turn reluctant learners into maths enthusiasts – the results will speak for themselves.

Tip 1: Show students that maths is everywhere

Maths, like reading or breathing, is so commonplace in our day-to-day lives that we sometimes overlook its importance. At the start of the year inspire your students to look for maths outside of their student workbooks:

  • Watch our video Maths is everywhere, which shows how maths exists in every facet of our lives.
  • Ask students when they have used maths outside of a maths lesson.
  • Look around the room for real-world examples of maths, such as clocks, directions and money.
  • Explain to students that they’ll complete hands-on Investigations during the school year.
Tip 2: Connect to their passions

iMaths includes a suite of Investigations that appeal to a variety of interests. Throughout the year, students will have the opportunity to dig into an Investigation which connects to their passions.

Whether that’s calling out the inner designer in Year 4 Investigation Ripper rides, bringing out the sporting star in Year 3 Investigation Top Team, or unveiling a history buff in Year 6 Investigation Pyramids and pharaohs.

Tip 3: Encourage mistakes!

Reluctant learners are not necessarily bad at maths. Some students are so good at maths, they become terrified of failure. They stop taking risks and do anything to avoid making a single error.

As for students who struggle, the ‘right/wrong’ nature of maths can be frightening. Often, there’s no room for opinion or experimentation. Time and again, struggling students get a big red X on their maths tests. Unsurprisingly, they become disengaged and unmotivated.

But with iMaths Investigations, it’s ok to make mistakes. In fact, if you’re using maths to build a ramp for toy cars or to design a paper plane, experimentation and failure are integral to the process.

Check out the article Embracing failure: How to promote risk taking, and encourage students to see failure in a new light.

‘iMaths has restored their enthusiasm’

Queensland teacher Chris used Investigations last year, and saw his most reluctant students grow in confidence and enthusiasm. He recalls an observation with his Year 6 class:

Students had just begun the Investigation My Personal Profile (iMaths 6). I watched a group of three students trying to accurately measure their arm span, while other groups were measuring their height, the length of their foot, how far they could throw a ball and so on.

This particular group struggled with holding a tape measure directly against their outstretched arms. But then, one of them turned to the whiteboard, put his cheek against it, spread his arms wide and said to his friends, ‘Why don’t you mark where the ends of my fingers are and measure that?’

It was simple and it worked. What’s more, the student with the clever solution usually really struggled in maths. Later, encouraged by his success, he went on to help others with his idea.

That happens a lot. I have so many students whose confidence in maths has suffered at the hands of traditional approaches. iMaths has restored their enthusiasm.

So this year, why not challenge the way your reluctant learners feel towards maths? Show them that maths is everywhere, that it connects to their passions, and that it’s OK to make mistakes.

In the words of Chris:

The real-world, hands-on approach really draws kids in. Maths is fun again. Maths has purpose. My biggest hurdle is stopping the maths lesson for a lunch break!

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