Learning math can be comfortable. Essentially, everyone can learn mathematics. When it’s presented well,

learning mathematics needs about the same ability level as learning to read. You may have heard of people who have gotten discouraged about learning math, but I believe that is because they had poor instruction.

learning mathematics needs about the same ability level as learning to read. You may have heard of people who have gotten discouraged about learning math, but I believe that is because they had poor instruction.

I’ll discuss some of the ways mathematics can be presented well, but first I want to say what that presentation will accomplish, so it will be clearer what the good teaching does.

For learning a mathematical principle, a student needs several steps or stages.

A. Understand the statement of the principle.

B. Have a way of remembering it.

C. Recognize where to apply it.

D. Have enough practice using it to feel confident in its usage.

A. Understand the statement of the principle.

B. Have a way of remembering it.

C. Recognize where to apply it.

D. Have enough practice using it to feel confident in its usage.

E. Get feedback and make corrections.

Here are some of the aspects of good teaching. Each of them helps one or more of the steps A through E.

1. Relate the new principle to something (mathematical or otherwise) that the

student already knows about. For example, basic algebra principles can be presented

as helping with arithmetic, like 2998 * 3002.

student already knows about. For example, basic algebra principles can be presented

as helping with arithmetic, like 2998 * 3002.

2. Sometimes draw a diagram or illustration of the principle, so it can be

visualized. Usually a larger diagram is better than a small one.

visualized. Usually a larger diagram is better than a small one.

3. Sometimes make two statements of the principle, one easy to remember and one

precise. In any such statement, strive for clarity.

precise. In any such statement, strive for clarity.

4. Show simple examples of the principle’s usage. This can even precede aspects 1 through 3,

depending on the complexity or abstractness of the principle.

depending on the complexity or abstractness of the principle.

5. Decide whether to present the proof. The proof can help with understanding

why the principle is true, which can help with A, B and C. Or it can be too

much of a sidetrack.

why the principle is true, which can help with A, B and C. Or it can be too

much of a sidetrack.

6. Observe the student using and stating the principle, and give feedback.

7. Spend enough time on the principle.