Madeleine Rita February 22, 2021 worksheets
5. Math worksheets don’t provide immediate feedback. Most teachers are familiar with the long delay between when students complete a worksheet, and when they get their correct page. Most don’t get anything back until the next day or the next week. In the meantime, the students continue to practice incorrectly. It’s no surprise that immediate feedback has been shown to increase student performance and diligence. Unfortunately, math worksheets have no mechanism for keeping a student from moving to the next problem until after they demonstrate understanding. Good curriculum software can address this issue by giving students instant responses and strategic feedback. The use of visual cues and auditory feedback helps students quickly recognize their fraction errors and self-correct. This just-in-time feedback system eliminates practicing incorrectly, while promoting self-correction and independence.
To summarize: math worksheets don’t teach, teachers teach. Of course, there is a place for math worksheets. After some instruction has occurred, math worksheets can provide extended practice and support development in fluency, provided the teacher is engaged with students as they work. Teachers who are effective at grouping students can use math worksheets as a springboard for discussions, discovery, and communication. So the next time you do a search for curriculum materials, skip the worksheets. Instead, consider resources that provide interactive experiences or consider sites that provide students with challenging problems. These sites will more likely engage students, foster discussion, and build a true understanding of the purpose and joy of learning math. Lauri Susi has over 20 years experience as a classroom teacher in grades pre-k through high school. Throughout most of those years, she taught at the university level as well, and she continues to hold a university post today. Lauri has a masters degree in special education and educational technology. She is an expert in matters involving students with special needs, students who struggle, and the strategic use of technology within school districts. She has co-directed a research project on fractions software for upper-elementary students, and has co-directed the implementation of a large-scale research project on technology to teach math to second grade students. Lauri is an excellent teacher-trainer and consultant to district administrators. She lives in Orlando, Florida.
Another problem with almost all worksheets is that they don’t prevent incorrect answers. Self-checking worksheets just let the student know they did something wrong–after the fact. I am a firm believer in the concept that, if at all possible, learning should be structured in small chunks in such a way that there is very little possibility for error. Worksheets often allow for mistakes to be made and then to be repeated many times. A mistake that gets practiced is extremely difficult to correct. This especially happens when worksheets are used as time fillers or baby sitters and the work isn’t really being supervised. There are some new materials being developed now based on what we are learning about how the brain learns. These brain-friendly materials should be an improvement over what has existed. I recently bought a book by Marcia L. Tate titled ”Mathematics Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.” I highly recommend her book. She gives a great deal of information on alternative activities that are better for your child’s brain development and for learning.
Rather than using worksheets, a better method is to use individual size white boards and have the child writing entire facts many times. Having a child writing 9 x 7 = 7 x 9 = 63 while saying ”nine times seven is the same as seven times nine and is equal to sixty-three” is many times more successful than a worksheet with 9 x 7 = ___ and the student just thinks the answer once and then writes that answer on the duplicate problems. I will admit that there is one type of worksheet that I used in the past and found relatively beneficial, although it had a different kind of flaw. For my Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra classes, I had several books of ”self-checking” worksheets. These worksheets had puns or puzzle questions at the top, and as the students worked the problems they were given some kind of code for choosing a letter to match that answer. If they worked the problems correctly, the letters eventually answered the pun or riddle. Students enjoyed these worksheets, but there are a couple problem areas even with these worksheets. Some students would get the answer to the riddle early and then work backward from letter to problem answer, so they weren’t learning or practicing anything.
Here are five reasons why math worksheets don’t work if you want students to understand math, enjoy math, and think mathematically. 1. Math worksheets are not engaging. Numerous research studies have found that when students are actively engaged with the content, they have a much better chance of understanding and remembering what they have learned. Unfortunately, math worksheets tend to bore most students, especially those who need the most help in math. Engagement entails much more than rote repetition of a procedure. Math worksheets tend to present very similar problem types over and over, leading to mundane practice of disassociated skills. For students who understand the material and successfully complete an assignment, another worksheet becomes meaningless. On the other hand, for the students who don’t understand the material, an alternative method of instruction is what’s needed. Another worksheet simply adds to the student’s frustration, or worse, contributes to a belief that ”I’ll never understand math.” A cute image or a ”fill-in-the-blanks” riddle does nothing to increase engagement or learning (and let’s face it, those riddles are not funny!). Instead, teachers need to increase engagement by providing students with exercises in which they discover patterns and relationships, solve problems, or think creatively about math relationships.
Even the youngest students–kindergarteners–will benefit from printable worksheets. They will help your little one learn and master basic concepts in way that will capture and hold their attention. Remember that small kids enjoy doing things rather than simply reading or listening. For this reason, attractive, well-illustrated worksheets with something to do will make learning fun for them. What’s more, completing your worksheet will give the child a tremendous sense of fulfillment. Remember to select worksheets that are the right level difficulty for your child. Get something too hard, and your child will become discouraged. Make it too easy, and they won’t learn much. Homeschool worksheets are far more than busy work. They are an important part of making sure that the concepts you teach in your home school stick with your child. Just make sure you have a good source for providing the worksheets, and that they’re the right ones for your kid or kids.
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