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Tips for Building Math Confidence

Unruly Math Pro
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Math anxiety is not only a student issue, it’s also a hurdle educators face too. To help keep student math anxiety at bay, it’s important that educators are confident in their math ability and conceptual understanding of math topics. To help build up teacher confidence with math, support starts at the school and district administration level. 

We caught up with middle school principal Emma Simmons of Roxbury Prep to shed light on the significant challenges facing math education today and how administrators can help develop educators into more confident math teachers. 

Challenges Faced in Math Education: Administrator Perspective

  1. Low confidence levels among students and internalized beliefs that they are “not a math person” result in a reluctance to participate and a lack of work production. 
  2. Gaps in foundational skills, such as base ten and place value understanding from elementary school, can have lasting effects on students' mathematical proficiency in middle school and beyond.
  3. Math anxiety and fear of failure intensifies as students progress into middle school and math becomes more challenging. Math anxiety can lead to disengagement and hinder the learning process. 

Emma called upon her experience in the classroom as a grade-level teacher, a math coach, and now a principal to share her strategies for improving teacher comfortability with math. 

Middle school principal Emma Simmons discusses her tips for developing stronger math educators.

Four Tips for Supporting Math Teachers

  1. Foster a Culture of Confidence and Error-Acceptance: Create a school culture and classroom environments that encourages students to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. By discussing errors openly and allowing students to learn from them, teachers can help build confidence and resilience in their students.
  2. Prioritize Conceptual Understanding: Instead of relying on answer-getting tricks, help math educators develop the conceptual understanding behind the “why” of algorithms. Developing this understanding may look like reviewing key lesson plans beforehand with a teacher or watching lessons live to provide real-time feedback and support. 
  3. Encourage Flexible Thinking: Teachers should allow students to explore multiple problem-solving strategies and share their strategies with classmates through math discussions This flexibility will empower students to become confident and adaptable problem-solvers.
  4. Be Present in the Classroom: As an administrator, Simmons emphasizes the importance of remaining connected to the classroom experience. She supports her staff by co-planning lessons, reviewing student assessments to identify gaps, and providing targeted feedback. 

By addressing these challenges head-on and implementing these tips to support math educators, you can help both teachers and students increase their math confidence!

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