Mystique Loane August 13, 2018 worksheets
Have you ever noticed how many K-12 math content websites are devoted to math worksheets? There seems to be an increase in websites that cater to desperate teachers and parents by offering fast, free ”worksheet generation”, ”10 free fractions worksheets,” etc. Now, as a former teacher I am not saying that one should never use math worksheets; however, I do believe that many teachers are using a very superficial method of instruction that relies too much on low-level math worksheets and hands-off instructional approaches. Worksheet lessons move from reading the directions aloud, to doing sample problems as a group, to completing the worksheet independently (or at home with parents), day in and day out. Teaching needs to be more than passing out worksheets. Whether you are the classroom teacher, instructional specialist, or parent, the methods you use greatly impact the level of understanding achieved by your students.
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.
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.
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.
Quality may be a little more expensive, but good worksheets will motivate your child to produce neat work that they can be proud of. If you want to start preparing your child for preschool, kindergarten or even junior school, you need to find preschool worksheets that provide a variety of activities. Literacy, numeracy, reading, writing, drawing, social and natural sciences are some of the areas that children between the ages of 3 and 7 can and should start learning about. Look for variety in the worksheets, as repeating the same exercise over and over will bore your child. Lots of pictures, fun activities and clearly laid out worksheets are what you are looking for. If you’re just looking for a few fun pages to keep the kids busy while you cook dinner, then many of the free printable worksheets available will be suitable.
If you have read my article ”Helping Your Child With Basic Arithmetic? Stay Away From Worksheets” then you know that I am not a fan of traditional worksheets. After writing that article, I found another credible teacher who has written many ezine articles expounding on the benefits of worksheets. I decided some clarification of position is in order. The primary problem with most math worksheets is that the problems are already written out and the child need only write the answers. For learning and practicing the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, it is much more beneficial for the child to write out the entire fact and say the entire fact out loud. A child will learn a multiplication fact much faster if they are writing out 6 x 8 = 48 at the same time they are saying ”six times eight is forty-eight” than if they just see 6 x 8 = ___ and only have to supply the 48.
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