How Can We Make Maths Engaging? - Mr. Paul Moffatt
October 9, 2018, 8:35 am

In my experience Maths is a subject that people either love or hate. Personally, I love Maths. I love manipulating numbers, finding answers and having that feeling that I ‘know’ something.

A lot of children are bored by Maths. This is something that really frustrates me! Maths is a subject that can create curiosity, the key is just asking the right questions. If a teacher’s Maths lessons consist solely of using a textbook and working in books, it is no wonder that students are bored. If you give students a challenge, usually, they step up to the challenge and are fully engaged. It doesn’t matter if the lesson goes slightly off plan because as long as children are interested they will learn. Learning in Maths does not start with counting or knowing addition sums, it starts with engaging students and creating that ‘spark' of excitement and willingness to take a risk to solve the problem.

In a previous placement in a school in the Pattaya area, I was working with a group of 'High Achieving' children on one more and one less. I began with one digit numbers and quickly moved onto two digit numbers. Whilst 6 of the students were interested and were using the resources provided to manipulate, I noticed two students were talking. I stopped and asked what they were talking about. One child replied, “She thinks that 100 – 1 = 99 and I think she’s wrong. I think its 199″. My favourite reply to the class at the time was ‘prove your answer’ so I asked him to prove he was right and she was wrong, so he did. The rest of the group carried on with my planned task, including the girl who had made the statement and the other child set about collecting resources that he might need. Fifteen minutes later I noticed the child was still working on proving he was right. I left him to it and began working with another group and halfway through the next activity I got a tap on my shoulder. He had his piece of paper in his hand (it had the question on it, 100 squares and one was crossed through) and said to me that he had finished working it out and he had realised the other girl was right. He was a little disappointed that he was wrong but I asked him if he had learnt anything new. He had of course. I told him that he should be pleased that he had learnt something new. This cheered him up a little. He then went and found the girl and told her that he had found out that she was right.

I wasn’t really bothered whether he was right or wrong in the end, or how he had worked it out. I was more in awe of him because he came up with the question without input from an adult, he went and found the resources that he thought would help him to find an answer and then he sat at a table for more than 30 minutes concentrating in the midst of a chaotic classroom with 29 other children doing different activities and wasn’t distracted. He found the answer, realised he was wrong at the start, admitted this and congratulated the other child on being correct.

And he was proud of himself because he had ‘proven it’.

He may not have completed the planned activity, but in those 30 minutes he was learning, engaged and enjoying what he was doing. He had that ‘spark’.

Children say they are average at Maths. That is not true. Every single child has an ability in Maths. It is just that some children do not associate what they know with Maths as a school subject  If a teacher can get that spark, create interest and engagement, students will come to realise they are not rubbish at Maths.  They are children and they need to be excited about what they are learning to realise how capable they are.