A strong math culture can help students develop positive habits and mindsets that improve their math competency

5 ways to create a strong math culture in your schools

A strong math culture can help students develop positive habits and mindsets that improve their math competency

At New Caney ISD, educators would develop this mindset by emphasizing the growth that students made on common assessments. We challenged students to get a few more questions right on the next assessment they took, and we celebrated this growth more than we celebrated earning As or Bs in class.

3. Integrate cumulative review.

Long-term success in math is dependent upon students’ ability to retain fundamental precursor skills because new concepts almost always build upon prior lessons. If students don’t commit this knowledge to their long-term memory, they won’t succeed—and their confidence will suffer.

The key to ensuring long-term math retention is to review prior content as students are learning new material. In the New Caney schools, we used a program called Get More Math to provide cumulative math practice that included a mix of new material as well as older skills and concepts—all tailored to each student’s needs.

Get More Math personalizes the review process for every student by determining exactly what practice they need, based on which problems they’ve gotten wrong before and which concepts they haven’t reviewed in a while. Teachers would build time into each class period for this spiraled review. At New Caney ISD, we set class time aside for students to work within Get More Math, and for teachers to provide additional, tailored support.

4. Have students keep a math journal.

When working with students one-on-one, our teachers would use scratch paper to demonstrate a problem-solving approach. However, if students still had questions about a particular problem or procedure the next day, they couldn’t refer back to the previous day’s work because it was in the trash or stuck in a backpack somewhere. Teachers were having to reteach skills, and that wasn’t practical or an efficient use of time every day. 

To solve this challenge, we started requiring students to keep a math notebook or journal with all of their problems from the course. That way, if students had a question, they could go back and refer to their previous work to find the answer. These notebooks helped students learn important study habits that contributed to their overall success in math.

5. Tap into students’ competitive spirit.

New Caney ISD also held competitions between schools to see which campus could answer the most questions correctly within Get More Math on the first try. The students loved the competitive nature of these contests, and they were highly motivated to succeed. 

With the help of these strategies, our schools developed a strong math culture that led to promising results. In fact, in my last year with the district, three of our four middle schools were recognized by the state of Texas as distinguished campuses in math—and the fourth received an overall distinguished award, in part, because of its math scores.

A strong math culture can help students develop positive habits and mindsets that improve their math competency. When students believe they can do math, and this belief is reinforced with a taste of success, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

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