What Are the Best Tips for Teaching Elementary Mathematics?

Alex Tree

The best tips for teaching elementary mathematics are to have specific methods of teaching in addition to backup methods when the original methods fail to work on some students, which is bound to happen eventually. Sometimes it is also necessary to make learning mathematics less boring by encouraging healthy competition. Whatever a teacher’s methods, he or she must have patience when dealing with young children. In addition, a school may have specific policies on how to handle students who are falling behind, such as speaking with their parents or placing them in a different class.

Chalkboards are often used as an aid to help teach students math.
Chalkboards are often used as an aid to help teach students math.

Teaching elementary mathematics often leads to using visual cues to aid the students in learning. For example, instead of simply writing “1 + 9” on a chalkboard, the teacher might give out 10 small objects for each student to hold, count, and subtract from each other. The students can count out nine and then one to come to the correct answer and realize how easy addition is. Some teachers also use charts that students can use to count to the correct answer. While these teaching methods encourage children to use crutches, the children almost always grow out of the need to use them.

Visual cues may aid elementary students in learning mathematics.
Visual cues may aid elementary students in learning mathematics.

Another method of teaching elementary mathematics and making learning fun is healthy competition. Some teachers incorporate games into their classrooms, and students end up looking forward to math time. Math baseball is one example of a math game, which is played by multiple students who give correct answers in order to reach third base and win. In small classes, all students can get a chance to play at least one round, depending on how fast the questions are being answered and the length of the teacher’s normal mathematics lectures. Another example of competition is simply keeping track of the best math scores.

Sometimes, no matter how hard a teacher tries, a child simply does not understand the lesson for that day. Teaching elementary mathematics requires a certain amount of patience and occasionally talks with parents to help get a child on board with the rest of the class. The child’s inability to learn might be caused by anything from too little one-on-one time or just the fact that he or she is feeling too restless to learn right then. This is often not a failure of either party. In some cases, the teacher needs to try different learning methods, or the child may have a learning disability that slows his or her advancement.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - I suspect that most "not so good" teachers were taught badly themselves and simply don't know any better. I think that teachers should have to do a lot more study before they become teachers, personally.

Elementary math is only one aspect of the work. When you think about how much else is involved, I'm surprised one person can do it alone.


@pastanaga - I've always found it funny that people who would be ashamed to admit that they have trouble reading or writing will happily admit to being terrible at maths.

I had a really great math teacher when I was in elementary school and I still remember her lessons more clearly than almost anything else. We would sometimes spend the whole lesson on a single problem, talking about it and trying different solutions to see if they fit.

She really helped me to see what was behind the numbers and why they had to fit together that way. And it didn't make me slow to figure things out, either. Most of us could solve quite large problems in our heads because of the strategies she taught us.

Unfortunately, she was one good teacher among quite a few not so good ones and my enthusiasm for math was gone by the end of high school. I wish she had been writing the math lesson plans for everyone else in the district.


Mathematics is often taught very badly. If you ask around a group of adults what their memories of math at elementary school are, they are going to overwhelmingly negative.

But there's nothing inherently difficult about math. The problem is that often students are not learning math, they are learning formulas by heart. Nobody is going to enjoy being forced to memorize something that seems completely useless to their lives.

If children are taught to explore and understand mathematical concepts, they will learn better and understand more. Teaching elementary math should be able getting students to figure out the mathematical work around for problems in their everyday lives. Not simply solving equations that have no basis in the real world.

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