I am a recently retired math instructor with the status of full professor from a community college in CA. Having primarily worked with developmental math students, ages 6-65, I used to wonder why some students "got it" while others did not. This concern prompted me to study research brain theory and learning styles. What I discovered opened a useful and successful teaching method for connecting with math students at every level. I like to determine a student's preferred style of learning (defined as: how and why students perceive, store, retrieve, process, and communicate information the way that they do) before I focus on concepts of math. My lessons for arithmetic, prealgebra, and beginning and intermediate algebra students begin by connecting with their world. (WHY?) Next I demonstrate what they are to do. (WHAT?) Now I give them an opportunity to try it. (HOW?) Then we apply it and adapt it. (WHAT IF?) This technique encourages students, helps them to gain confidence, and logically connects concepts that will be required when they progress to their next level of study.
Many students are "math anxious"; therefore, I start at the beginning and build each lesson with an upward spiraling approach using a lot of repetition. In addition, I incorporate necessary study skills on a regular basis. When students see something they recognize they relax and are more willing to stretch and grow from there. My goal is to help students who don't "get it" break down barriers. Learning math can be fun and exciting. Helping them turn fears and apprehension into skills for living and learning is truly rewarding to them, and to me as well.
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