June 13, 2023 other-professional-development
Fun Ways to Teach Math and Printables to Get You Started
By: Jeff Todd
I have always searched for fun ways to teach math. I am a firm believer that putting quality math lessons in front of students helps them enjoy their classes and participate in them more, but why not just have fun with math at the same time? In this article, we'll discuss seven fun ways to teach math and explore some of my free printables that can help you get started!
Fun Ways to Teach Math & FREE Printables To Get Started
#1 Ask Students What Makes Math Learning Fun
First, ask students what would make math class more fun. They always have great ideas! Collecting their responses on this neatly formatted sheet has been one way that I can discover what students do and do not enjoy in my class. Making the class responsive to their likes and dislikes lets students know that teachers are interested in them, which helps to engage them in the learning process.
To start having more fun with math in your classroom, download my Making Math Class More FunStudent Survey. With these worksheets, students will answer the following questions:
Math classes that are the most fun always…
Something I really like when learning math is when the teacher…
The most helpful thing a teacher can do or say in math class is…
If I were the teacher in math class, I would…
Some things that would make math class more fun are…
I learn best when…
These six simple questions will give you all the feedback you need to make your math class more fun and engaging. Download and print the survey worksheets now.
#2 Get the Five Senses Involved
Today’s students are more active learners. So, I try to have fun in the classroom in different ways. A few years ago while taking a professional development course, Emily, one of my classmates, shared what she does to help students with math instruction. She makes sure to present all math concepts in four ways: speaking, writing, having students repeat the ideas, and using hand motions. What a great strategy! This approach helps students with different learning styles. It appeals to the visual learner, the auditory learner, and the kinesthetic learner. I was excited to try this out in my own class.
Here’s what I did when I taught students how to solve equations:
First, I held up one finger in the air and asked students to copy the problem in their Math Journals.
2x + 3 = 9
Second, I tapped my head with both hands to signal the second step in solving the equation.
[I’m thinking to subtract 3 from both sides.]
Next, to solve the equation by performing an operation on both sides of the equation, I used one hand to show alternating sides.
2x + 3 – 3 = 9 – 3
Finally, I wrote an equivalent equation by simplifying. [I’m showing large to small with my hands.]
2x = 6
I then asked students to stand and repeat the directions using hand motions.
I was also sure to write the instructions on the board for reading/writing learners.
Students can repeat these steps to continue to simplify the problem, using several iterations of the steps for more complicated equations.
#3 Make it Musical
Another fun way to teach math is with music! Integrating music into math not only allows students to participate in math in a unique way, but it is a great opportunity to get to know your students better!
When researching the benefits of music in math instruction, I learned that students exposed to music and art curricula had higher math achievement than students who did not have the opportunity to participate (Gardner 1996). Additionally, students who participate in middle school music programs have higher test scores than those who do not (Schneider & Klots, 2000; Whitehead, 2001).
If you're wondering how to make math fun and like the idea of integrating more music into your instruction, check out my Rhythmic Patterns Math Lesson Plan. And to learn more about music and math, click here.
Another way I use songs is by looking for quality videos on YouTube. One of my favorites for the upper math grades are some parody songs by Westerville South High School. The songs provide great overviews of the topics. I might show a video several times during a unit, particularly “All I Have to Do Is Solve” during the unit on systems of equations. Sometime students request that I play the songs again because they want to have fun with math.
#4 Math Centers
Although not always the first idea that comes to mind, math centers are a fun way to teach math!
When most teachers think of centers, they think of "station work" in the early elementary classrooms. The learning centers I'm proposing teachers use to make math fun are based on the research-based instructional approach taught by Dr. Katherine McKnight. Dr. McKnight is an amazing educator that enlightens teachers to the benefits of using learning centers in ALL grade levels to teach new concepts and build content knowledge. Download Dr. McKnight's free eBooks and start setting up your learning centers right away!
I've used math centers to have students complete Frayer Models, participate in math journal checks, engage in collaborative learning activities, answer writing prompts, review previously-learned concepts, answer mathematical discourse prompts with classmates, play fun math games, and more!
#5 Integrate STEAM Activities
STEAM is a movement within education to give students authentic opportunities to solve problems using math, science, engineering, arts, and technology. With the call for STEAM activities increasing, I've found myself under pressure to come up with fun, meaningful, and math-rich projects.
If you are a teacher wondering how to make math fun for your students, then I encourage you to put your concerns about planning STEAM lessons aside and jump in! To see your students excited to participate in a math-based STEAM project is well worth the time it takes to plan out the lesson. Download my Three Little Pigs STEAM Lesson to use in your classroom or get inspired to create your own plan. Additionally, I have awesome tips for creating rubrics that will enhance STEAM projects in the math classroom.
#6 Collaborative Learning Experiences
Collaborative math activities in the classroom will help students move forward along their learning trajectories and makes schoolwork fun! When students can work with their classmates to complete activities they get to learn with and from each other, see that they aren't the only ones struggling to grasp a concept and practice social-emotional skills. The best about collaborative learning experiences is that they seem to immediately make math more fun for students!
To learn how I use collaborative math activities in my classroom and to download five awesome worksheets, check out my recent article.
Finally, you'll want to download my new Math Land Game Boards for your grade. Math Land, similar to Hasbro® Candy Land™, is a captivating fluency board game that's guaranteed to get students excited about using their math skills.
#7 Math Games Never Fail
Obviously, games are the go-to when trying to figure out how to make math more fun. You only have to spend a few minutes clicking around on Teachers-Pay-Teachers to see that teachers are itching to get their hands on printable math games. Although games are the quickest (and often the easiest way) to show students that math can be fun, teachers should avoid letting games become a crutch for making instruction more creative and interesting for students.
With that being said, I am a fan of math games and have some amazing free downloads ready for you to print now. Below are a few of my favorite games I use in the classroom to make math fun.