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Strategies for Teaching Middle School Math

July 07, 2021


Strategies for Teaching Middle School Math

As any teacher or parent of a middle school student knows, there are shifts in attitudes and behaviors with the onset of adolescence. Understanding why these shifts happen can help us to better support students through what can be a challenging emotional and physical time.

To reach and teach the middle school math mind, understanding its inner workings and leveraging current best practices just makes sense.  This white paper provides answers to who middle school students are, how they learn, and classroom strategies to make sure they stay engaged at this critical time of change. You’ll learn more about how to nurture the middle school mind in the math classroom and how your students’ minds work when it comes to:

Emotional Development of Middle School Students

Many students as young as second and third grade have already decided that they are “good” or “bad” at math, and unfortunately, the middle school grades often further establish each learner’s self-image as a mathematician by developing an even stronger emotional response to math. While some students have an enthusiastic passion for mathematics, others harbor an intense hatred that is usually perpetuated by the myth that math is something that each person is either “good” or “bad” at. It is therefore especially critical for middle school students to have a growth mindset about learning mathematics.

Because many students mistakenly believe that success in mathematics requires remembering countless unrelated facts, they have a tendency to disengage, give up, and assume a fixed mindset in math.

Social Development of Middle School Students

Middle school students are socially aware and often socially motivated. Lessons and learning experiences should be more conversational because we need to cultivate a true community of mathematicians.

Fostering Intelligent and Independent Learners

In “Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners,” the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research notes that middle school students are developmentally capable of intellectually challenging work, but that they often struggle to realize their own potential and fall short of success because their learning environment is designed to build up their confidence rather than their intellect. We must allow students to progress along a trajectory of growing independence that leaves students feeling supported, but also allows for the development of expertise, proficiency, increased awareness, and fosters an ownership of learning.

Discover how to make an impact on the middle school mind with best practices that will enable your students to be more connected, motivated, and independent learners.

Chief Learning Officer

Tim Hudson

Dr. Tim Hudson is a learning innovator and education leader who frequently writes and speaks about the intersection of learning, schooling, and technology. At DreamBox, Dr. Hudson oversees the development of innovative learning experiences that engage students in mathematical thinking and provide teachers with useful information to support differentiation and personalization in their classrooms. He has spoken at national conferences such as ASCD, iNACOL, NCTM, and SXSWedu and along with DreamBox advisor Cathy Fosnot, co-authored the chapter “Classrooms Where Children Learn” in an NCTM book about Mathematics Intervention. Prior to joining DreamBox, Dr. Hudson spent more than 10 years working in public education, first as a High School Mathematics Teacher and then as a K–12 Mathematics Coordinator and Strategic Planning Facilitator for the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis, MO. Follow his conversations on Twitter (@DocHudsonMath) and on the DreamBox Learning blog.

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