Lucille Mellina November 22, 2020 Worksheet
As a parent, I’m very aware of what my own children are learning in school. For the most part, I’ve been happy with their progress, but as they rise in grade level, I’m starting to see more emphasis on a loose understanding of the concepts and less emphasis on skills–particularly skills with arithmetic of fractions. The main problem with what I see with my students and my own children is that kids are taught ”concepts” and are not taught skills–unless they’re lucky enough to have a teacher who knows better. Most particularly, children are not taught mastery of arithmetic with fractions. Unfortunately, virtually all of their future math education depends on being able to do fractional arithmetic.
Most teachers are familiar with the long delay between when students complete a worksheet, and when they get their correct page. Most don’t get anything back until the next day or the next week. In the meantime, the students continue to practice incorrectly. It’s no surprise that immediate feedback has been shown to increase student performance and diligence. Unfortunately, math worksheets have no mechanism for keeping a student from moving to the next problem until after they demonstrate understanding. Good curriculum software can address this issue by giving students instant responses and strategic feedback. The use of visual cues and auditory feedback helps students quickly recognize their fraction errors and self-correct. This just-in-time feedback system eliminates practicing incorrectly, while promoting self-correction and independence.
Numerous research studies have found that when students are actively engaged with the content, they have a much better chance of understanding and remembering what they have learned. Unfortunately, math worksheets tend to bore most students, especially those who need the most help in math. Engagement entails much more than rote repetition of a procedure. Math worksheets tend to present very similar problem types over and over, leading to mundane practice of disassociated skills. For students who understand the material and successfully complete an assignment, another worksheet becomes meaningless. On the other hand, for the students who don’t understand the material, an alternative method of instruction is what’s needed. Another worksheet simply adds to the student’s frustration, or worse, contributes to a belief that ”I’ll never understand math.” A cute image or a ”fill-in-the-blanks” riddle does nothing to increase engagement or learning (and let’s face it, those riddles are not funny!). Instead, teachers need to increase engagement by providing students with exercises in which they discover patterns and relationships, solve problems, or think creatively about math relationships.
The most important thing about these math worksheets is that they are used for tutoring and not for the main course studies. That is why they are used by tutors to offer remedial tuition and by parents at home so that they can offer their kids extra tuition to sharpen their skills. Math is known to be difficult and is often a headache for the young and so the math worksheets come in handy in helping resolve this problem. Thanks to the sites over the internet that offer free printable math worksheets, you do not need to worry about the cost of purchasing one, maybe only the ink cost. So don’t go making excuses for not being able to access a math work sheet.
Some students are unable to access tools that many of us take for granted when they try to complete worksheets. They may be unable to grasp pencils, control their movements within the limited spaces provided on the sheet, or be able to simply stabilize their paper while writing. Other students, including those for whom English is not their primary language or who struggle with reading, have difficulty reading the directions, words, and math terminology on the worksheets. Still other students require different visual representations or methods of engagement in order acquire an understanding the content. Most math worksheets do not provide information in multiple formats so they are inaccessible to students with a wide variety of learning styles and abilities. Well-designed technology can provide these students with access to excellent content. For example, these fractions tools and supplemental curriculum allow students with physical disabilities to access fractions content using a variety of assistive technology devices. Instructions, prompts and feedback can be read aloud, while visual models, cues combined with sounds support a wide range of learning styles and abilities.
Great, fun and free math worksheets should be able to present a mathematical problem in different ways. Math is after all nothing more than a numeric expression of some of life’s simplest questions: How much money do I have left if I buy a soda? By the end of the week, how much of my daily allowance will I be able to save if I don’t? When a child learns to relate math to everyday questions, he will be great at it from the simplest addition all the way to trigonometry. To convert percentages, decimals and fractions is thus one essential skill. How much of an apple pie has been eaten? The answer to this question can be expressed in percentages, 50%; or in decimals, 0.5; or in fraction, ½. In other words, half of mom’s delicious apple pie is gone. How many kids in school have done their homework? Again this can be answered in several ways: in percentages, 70%; or in ratio, 7:10; Both of these mean out of ten kids in class there are seven good ones who did and three not-so-good ones who didn’t. The bottom line is that kids learn math much better when it makes sense.
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