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How to Make your Math Lessons Engaging and Enjoyable for Primary School Students

private home tutor teaches GCE additional maths to student in Singapore

Let's admit it, for most students, maths is just difficult to understand. Trying to solve problems for hours with their tutor can easily become a frustrating and unfulfilling experience. And if you are unable to help them improve, it will reflect badly on your own credibility as a tutor. So, how can you step out of this terrible cycle?

The answer is actually quite simple: incorporate multimedia elements in your lesson to make the process of learning math more enjoyable.

Research by Ussher et al. (2014) suggests that while there may not be a significant difference in learning outcomes initially between primary school students who use multimedia elements in learning and those who do not, there is a drastic difference between these two groups’ interest in learning mathematical concepts. Put simply, multimedia tools can instantly enhance your pupil’s engagement with maths, an interest which will serve them well later in life.

The reason many primary school students find it difficult to practice math is not that they are unintelligent, but because they don't fully grasp the abstract concepts well enough. Given that a good understanding of mathematics and high proficiency in applying it in everyday life is vital for academic success in Singapore, tutors must be able to go beyond using the textbook as the primary source of teaching.

In this article, MindWorks suggests some great online tools for tutors teaching mathematics to students in primary school to make maths lessons fun, interactive, and compelling!

For Primary 1-6 Mathematics:

Primary 5 students learn math in the classroom in Singapore

Check out the MOE Primary 1-6 Mathematics curriculum here.

1. Incorporate interesting videos

Math lessons can feel a lot more interesting when students can understand how different concepts came to be. Sometimes, this can mean incorporating short documentary-style videos explaining the discovery of a certain concept. Especially at younger ages, incorporating stories into lessons can make students remember those concepts far better and for much longer!

Research shows that using storytelling methods in teaching mathematics increases student's ability to understand concepts and solve mathematical problems, increasing Mathematical achievement (Albool, 2012). This also results in an increased desire to learn.

One website which includes great educational documentaries and short videos is PBS Learning Media, which you can access for free! This site has videos spanning many different subjects and age levels, as well as an easy to use filter system to find the more relevant materials quickly.

Screenshot of PBS Learning Media's website

2. Play interactive games

One fun and easy way to ensure students regularly practice mathematical problems is by assigning games. Prodigy is a research-based game developed by certified math teachers available to educators for free.

It offers many skills to help students gain a deeper understanding of underlying mathematical principles and has proven to show a marked increase in students' grades on standardized tests. As seen from the below screenshots, the web app integrates mathematical quizzes in a highly compelling adventure game that highlights the value of knowledge.

Screenshot of Prodigy math game instructions

Students can progress through the game by correctly solving math questions with increasing levels of difficulty.

Screenshot of Prodigy math game questions

3. Combine both!

Now, why not combine an instructional video with an interactive quiz to test the student's learning on the spot?

Khan Academy's website offers many interesting lessons for students in different grades. With their scoring system, you can track how far the student has advanced in a particular topic. It also gives the student incentive to practice more in their free time to achieve a high score!

Screenshot of Khan Academy's math courses for 6th grade

Moreover, there is a growing body of research that explains the many ways Khan Academy courses have a positive effect on learning outcomes for students. For instance, students who complete 60% or more of their grade-level math lessons on the platform show 1.8 times their expected growth on the NWEA MAP growth assessment!

Additionally, the use of Khan Academy helps students have better than expected math scores, decrease their math anxiety, and feel more confident in their ability to do maths. Introducing such a tool for self-practice early in life can allow your tutees to gain long-term benefits in their maths learning!

Being resourceful is an essential quality of a tutor, so be creative in the ways you experiment with some of these learning tools. Combined with high emotional and social intelligence, you will soon be able to customise lesson plans for students to help them learn in their favourite ways.

4. Try online math tools such as graphs and calculators

For a more traditional approach, try online graphs or calculators for easy practice. It is not only more sustainable (with less use of paper) but also makes learning more engaging for young students who love to be on the iPad! What is more, it is easy to manipulate, and with shared whiteboards, you can watch their progress in solving math problems in real-time.

A fun free online board is this web whiteboard, while a great online graphing tool is Geometry Pad. These work great on the iPad and are a nice way to make graphs, manipulate shapes, and even explain concepts by making your own diagrams!

Online whiteboard app for real time collaboration
Geometry pad screenshot make parabola

4. Use worksheets

Once again, this is a more traditional approach to teaching, but with fun worksheets that involve solving a puzzle, students can feel more engaged and interested during your lesson. Some websites which offer fun math worksheets for primary school students are:

Screenshot of Math Worksheets website with worksheets for sixth grade math class

Which of these tools look the most appealing to you?

Let us know in the comments below! Or if you have more suggestions to share with your fellow tutors, inspire them by leaving a comment under this post.

If you have recently started teaching, here is an article with the best advice for beginner tutors: 8 Common Mistakes New Tutors Make and How to Avoid Them

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All the best in your tutoring journey!

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