Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. But if you're called to do it, you know there's nothing else quite like it. Join us in discussing what works - and what doesn't.

Help for Jr. High Schoolers who Struggle with Math

Randy Chip Jr. High School Counselor

I am a School Counselor so I don't have teaching experience but I am in the classrooms discussing topics with our students. I've noticed that several 7th graders lack basic Math skills and I'd like to work with them during our 30 minute/day homeroom period. I was thinking about using the old standard multiplication flashcards but the students also need help with subtraction, division, and fractions also. Can anyone tell the best way to shore-up their skills that isn't too "elementary" and will keep their attention? Thanks.

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6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Math Games

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Hello Randy:

Well, my experience with flashcards is that it won't keep attention of very many for very long! There are, however, many math games that work on basic skills that tend to keep students more engaged. Here are a few I can think of but there are tons more!

24 - Numbers are on a card. students come up with different ways the numbers can equal 24.

First In Math - A computer-base game that's a spin off of 24. You have to get a license for it but it can be a lot of fun!

Jeopardy - Make up math your own questions in different categories like the show. I've used index cards with the money on the question on one side and the money on the other. Then I just tape them to the chalkboard.

Bingo - I have several versions of Math "Bingo" games in my room that I inherited. I'm sure they're easy to purchase or you can make up your own.

Everyday Math curriculum - I don't know if your school uses this curriculum but there are a bunch of great games that go with it! Almost all of them you can use with basic playing cards. Check out their website.

Blackjack - OK, you can't gamble but it's a great game for basic addition and probability!

Digital Lessons.com - This website has a bunch of lessons, projects, and games: http://www.digitallesson.com/index.html

You could probably Google "math games" and come up with a ton of different ideas! Hope this helps!!


Math for 7th Graders

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Why not have the students pick a topic (like fractions) and create a lesson based on that? They can teach it to the class or in small groups. Is there an elementary school nearby? The students can tutor the younger kids; they love to do that and it helps out both the younger and the older students!
"Slap the Number" game is always popular - put a bunch of answers up on the whiteboard, have the kids get into teams (number off or whatever to get two groups). Each group then gets a flyswatter; you say a question, and whoever slaps the correct number first wins!

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Elementary vs. High School

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Just remember that with middle school,a huge range of strategies work, from elementary to high school. Nothing too low, nothing too high because there's always a developmental range to cater to. I agree with Kim, however. Setting them up as teachers is vital in any middle school subject. It's not just about content, but also about communication.
Check in again, and tell us how it went!
-Heather WG

Middle School EAL teacher and program coordinator

Tiered Assessments

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A colleague of mine, Dave Suarez, has introduced tiered assessments at our school (http://challengebychoice.wordpress.com/tiered-instruction-and-assessment/) and the MS math program represents differentiation at its best.

Hope this helps,


FASTT Math good for math facts, kids like it.

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I just ordered FasttMath which is a computer program to strengthen math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division that responds to what they have done in the past, has games and gives good reports for teachers. Check it out.

Math Games/Activities

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Hello! I just read a post from another teacher in a different discussion thread about teaching math to middle schoolers and I recommended a few books to get kids motivated and engaged. I thought I'd post those books here as well since this discussion is specifically about math.
The books are:
1 - Hands-On Math Projects with Real-Life Applications, Grades 6 - 12,
by Muschla and Muschla, published by Jossey-Bass in 2009.
2 - Another book by Muschla and Muschla is Math Games: 180 Reproducible Activities to Motivate, Excite, and Challenge Students, Grades 6-12, by Jossey-Bass.
3 - Mega-Fun Math Games and Puzzles by Michael S. Schiro, also published by Jossey-Bass in 2009. It says that the activities are for elementary grades, but some of them can definitely be ramped up and/or used for review with your struggling students.

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Teaching Math to Middle Schoolers Discussion Thread

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Hi, Kim,

I'm new to the Edutopia middle school discussion group and was intrigued by your reference to a math discussion thread. Is that on this site? If it is, I haven't yet found it. As a former math teacher, I'd love to "hear" that conversation.



[quote]Hello! I just read a post from another teacher in a different discussion thread about teaching math to middle schoolers

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Ideas for students struggling with math

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Hi, Randy,

Two thoughts came to my mind.

1) When teaching Algebra 1 to struggling students, my colleagues and I used programmable graphing calculators to practice basic skills. The kids loved using the calculators because they knew big kids and serious math students also used them. (It also felt like a more sophisticated activity than flash cards.) There was a colleague on staff who was a programming guru. So, he created programs that generated random problems for students to practice arithmetic facts. For example, one program generated addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems involving whole numbers. Students could focus on just one operation or try their hands at problems involving all 4 operations. Students received immediate feedback as they worked each problem and feedback in the term of bar graphs showing the number of problems attempted compared to the number of correct answers when they were finished. If your school has graphing calcuators, this would be one option. If you have computers, I would think there would be software that would allow for similar practice.

2) In addition to resources previously mentioned, Family Math by Lawrence Hall of Science was a favorite of mine. I still remember a fabulous lesson on the meaning of mean, median, and mode. To be honest, I don't know if it's even still in print. But, if you can get your hands on a copy, it might provide a couple of interesting ideas.

Good luck!


Middle School Math (including Alg I, Geo, and Alg II) from Tampa, FL

Ideas for practice

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We use the following websites to practice:
aaamath.com - Play 20 questions....the kids love it
funbrain.com - Be wary of games that aren't as mathematical as we would prefer.

and, most recently, freerice.com.

I highly recommend freerice.com because, for every correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations Food Network. (This is an INCREDIBLE opportunity to discuss the value of 10 grains of rice globally).

I also agree with Sybrina's idea for graphing calculators. What makes them really want to use them is if they write their own practice programs. If you use TI's, I could give you a reasonably quick lesson in TI-Dos and a program for them to write. Even if they almost entirely copy the program off of the board, they still feel ownership of it. As an added bonus, they start trying to figure out what they are doing, which takes them to a higher level.

Finally, if you don't have computers or calculators at your disposal:

Play "24" with them. You can buy the game or make up your own cards. Essentially, you give them 4 numbers and they have to "create" an answer of 24. Ex: 1,2,4,9 One answer would be 9 + 4^2 - 1. It allows them practice order of operations and all of their basics at once. Plus, it makes them think. Plus, it teaches them that there is almost always more than one way to get to the answer. Plus,...

Give them dice or cards. With a partner, play war with the cards where each person flips a card and both players have to multiply the values. First person to answer gets the cards. Ties have to be left on the table and get carried over to the next round. You can do the same thing with dice and a tally sheet. Get 20-sided dice to add to the challenge. By the way, going back to the cards, you can do a lot with integers by using black cards as positive and red cards as negative.

I could go on and on. Basically, avoid the flashcards. If it seems like work to the kids, they aren't going to get anything out of it. Inspire them to want to know their facts and they will.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar,


Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Graphing Calculators

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Can I just say that Tom is right on about students learning to program calculators? I remember how teaching a simple programming lesson to my kids -- because a genius programmer I was not -- and how a major light bulb came on for a few of the students. One young man I remember in particular was an underperforming student with a C average when it came to traditional lessons. But, boy you should have seen what he could make his calculator do! And, all because he learned about programming.

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