George Lucas Educational Foundation

Question: Doing Math Problems in Front of the Class?

Question: Doing Math Problems in Front of the Class?

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Good day, im trying to find out why some teachers have kids come up in front of class to do math problems on the board. My one son in grade 3 dislikes it, finds it makes him nervous and he gets upset by other kids giving their opinions while he is trying to work. My other twin son is in a different class and his teacher never calls them up to do it just different teachers styles? Or is this a recommended tool for teaching math? Many thanks if you are able to provide info.

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John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Tim, I'm so sorry your son is feeling this way. Unfortunately, my experience in math in school was similar for all too long. It can be utilized as a very effective method when done in a supportive way. When I have students come to the board, I make sure other students never comment unless it is positive, appropriate, and respectful. In my room the child always volunteers and risk-taking is always encouraged, supported, and celebrated. One of my major philosophies is to get children in front of their peers to teach what they know. I don't just use students to write out the problem, they are actually sharing the steps or explaining their path to a possible solution. By doing this, even my most introverted learners end up coming out of their shells and thriving in front of the class. But it is embedded into my classroom culture to do it this way and always in a fully supportive way. We always celebrate mistakes as opportunities for learning. So I would encourage you to meet with his teacher to discuss your son's feeling and find out more information. Let him share about how comments are affecting him. The teacher may not even be aware it is happening as they may be dealing with other more obvious behavior situations. Either way, you will know more and so will his teacher and everybody wins when that happens. Good luck and please let us know how it goes or if you need more support.

tim's picture

Good day John thankyou for the reply.We decided to do some roleplaying of the situations
and rather let him deal with the challenges at school...he does seem to be more of an introvert at school (which is opposite of home!) . Thankyou for helping us to see it in a different way,
Regards ,

Hanna Fiene's picture

This is just teacher style. I call kids up to show their work ONLY if they volunteer. Sometimes they end up solving the problem in a way differently than I taught which can help other students who didn't understand the lesson.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Tim, I'm so happy you are seeing progress with the situation. Let us know if you need more support.

Anna-Marie Lorento's picture

I am sorry that your son is having a difficult time with this particular method of teaching. In my experiences, I have found that teachers usually use this form of practice to get students comfortable with answering questions. Unfortunately, at the beginning this method may do the complete opposite, especially for shy students. In a healthy class environment, students should feel at ease when answering questions especially if its over material that has been covered extensively. I also think that teachers who follow this method are conforming to the idea that "the best way to learn is by teaching". If students can successfully answer a problem and explain how they came to achieve the correct answer in front of their classmates, there is a great chance that they fully understand the subject being covered.

Kodie McNamara's picture

Tim, I'd have to agree with the few others who replied to your initial post. Many times, having students come up to the board has to be an accepted norm in class. Students both know what is expected when they go up to the board and know how to act when others are up there as well. If your child/student is feeling discomfort when completing questions on the board, I would suspect his/her teacher hasn't created and cultured those norms just yet! Also, a lot of times as a teacher we like to "prime" students - that is, ensure them their answer are correct, and then ask them to share, whether its just telling the class or writing answers on the board. Maybe this could be a helpful suggestion for the teacher!

Seth Van Doren's picture

Tim, this is a very good question. I personally think that having student give their responses is a valuable tool teachers can use. It allows a teacher to gain insight on a students understanding of a topic. It also allows for other students to see a new strategy for solving problems they may not have thought of.

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