Cherie Sakina February 24, 2021 worksheets
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.
4. Math worksheets are not accessible. Some students are unable to access tools that many of us take for granted when they try to complete worksheets. They may be unable to grasp pencils, control their movements within the limited spaces provided on the sheet, or be able to simply stabilize their paper while writing. Other students, including those for whom English is not their primary language or who struggle with reading, have difficulty reading the directions, words, and math terminology on the worksheets. Still other students require different visual representations or methods of engagement in order acquire an understanding the content. Most math worksheets do not provide information in multiple formats so they are inaccessible to students with a wide variety of learning styles and abilities. Well-designed technology can provide these students with access to excellent content. For example, these fractions tools and supplemental curriculum allow students with physical disabilities to access fractions content using a variety of assistive technology devices. Instructions, prompts and feedback can be read aloud, while visual models, cues combined with sounds support a wide range of learning styles and abilities.
Tip #2 – Neat & Professional. Because there are so many sources of worksheets on the internet, you’re never sure what you’re going to find at a particular site. Choose worksheets that are neat and organized without too many problems jumbled on to each page. The concept of neatness needs to be taught to your child as they do math. If your child doesn’t learn this, be prepared for many careless mistakes later on in his math work. Boys in particular don’t take the time to be neat and careful. If you give him multiplication worksheets that are crowded on to each page without room to write the answers, this in encouraging messiness. Crowded problems also confuse kids. When a child is first learning a new concept in math and they lack confidence, being faced with an overcrowded worksheet can cause instant panic. Avoid this with neat and professional worksheets.
Tip #3 – Use Worksheets Sparingly. Since free multiplication worksheets are so easy to find, it’s tempting to give your child too many. You mean well, but it just seems like a good idea to have them do several at a time. Little brains can only take so much. Keep learning fun by sprinkling worksheets into their curriculum as a fun break from their usual textbook. Tip #4 – Keep it Fun. If you happen to have a competitive child, chances are he will love worksheets always trying to beat his last time. This is great and if this is the case, let him work all of the worksheets he wants. Just be sure that it is ”child-driven” not ”parent-driven” meaning – let it be his idea. As long as he is having fun and asking for more, let him have all he wants.
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.
No matter what materials you choose, it is most important that you supervise your child constantly so that mistakes get caught rather than practiced. I learned this particular lesson the hard way. When my daughter was young, she did something that needed ”attention.” I no longer remember what it was that she did, but I told her to write the sentence ”I will not disobey my parents again” 50 times. I should have known better, but I didn’t check on her at the beginning and then I got busy. So, sometime later, she brought me 50 sentences of ”I will not disobey my parents agen.” She had just practiced misspelling ”again” as ”agen” — 50 times! I’m not certain that we ever really got that fixed. This issue of NOT practicing mistakes is extremely important. Parents shouldn’t give worksheets as busy work and teachers should only use them if you are going to have a non-math teacher substitute. White boards with supervision are always a better way to practice skills. If you need some time to do chores, your child will get much more benefit by helping you with the chores. And maybe you can work in a little discussion of numbers or counting while you do chores together.
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