Often students find math too challenging simply because they see no application for it. Although we tell them over and over again that there are many practical applications, they can not see it. We present them with reading stories to show the application, but they get lost in the reading and can’t figure out what the question is. In frustration we attempt to show them how to break the story down and a few are able to grasp the concept. How do we reach the rest? Hands-on learning is the easiest way for students to learn.
Hands-on in math? Of course, and don’t forget to make it fun. Children of all ages use math everyday. If a teacher doesn’t have concept, he/she can’t present that concept to the student. Naturally we can see the use of adding and subtracting. Not surprisingly so can our students go math 3 grade. Why? Because add and subtract. Give a child five pieces of gum and tell them to give a piece to each of two friends. Then ask, “How many pieces will you have left?” The answer will be one of two. . .either the child will tell you, “Three pieces” or the child will tell you, “Five, I won’t share.” Either way, they did the math.
If a child can see the value of math then the concept simply has to be taught. Once taught and captured the child has it for life. Oh, it may have to be added to as the child matures, but the idea is valuable and therefore, the child is willing to learn. So, what kind of lesson plans teach children to desire math? One of my favorite lessons incorporates decimals.
Everyone is familiar with the game Monopoly. In our classroom we play Monopoly as a class. The students love it! The class is divided into small groups of three or four students. Each group forms a corporation. The group designs a logo, address, and name. Of course the name needs to pertain to real estate. The money is divided by 10. For example, if property sells for $200.00 it becomes $20.00. If rent is $18.00 it becomes $1.80. Doing this, students have to use decimals to figure their earnings and spendings (oh, we call them debits and credits.)
To increase the learning challenge we do not use cash. After all in the business world few people do business in cash. Most business is done in notes, checks, or credit applications. To keep it simple we use checks. Each group now has a job to design their checks. I give them copies of real checks from which to work. This, by the way, offers a great opportunity for a field trip.
The local bank enjoys getting involved in this part. I contact them, and arrange a field trip. The bank shows the students the premises and then explains how to keep a check book. This is a great opportunity to help students understand the importance of the financial institution.
The students begin with $150.00 as their bank balance. I am the banker. It is each corporation’s responsibility to keep track of their debits and credits. It is also their responsibility to balance their bank statements with my records at the beginning of each play day (generally, Friday.) Throughout the game, I keep record of transactions. The bank writes checks for both the community chest and chance cards monetary awards. At the end of the day each corporation turns in a deposit slip to the bank with the checks they received throughout the play. These are checked and recorded by me (the banker) and a bank statement is developed for each corporation. A grade is given for their accuracy in bookkeeping.
My students have a blast and beg to play the game. Be aware it is slow going at first. Rules have to be taught and students have to learn to keep records and balance money. Students quickly learn to divide by 10 and to add and subtract decimals. The value of bookkeeping never has to be taught. It now belongs to them.