George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Leadership

Was Math Your Favorite Subject?: Learning to Make Mathematics Fun (and Applicable)

    I admit it: Math was not my favorite subject in school. What was? Science. Why? Because I love animals. I love the trees and mountains and oceans and deserts; I love to watch the patterns of change in nature. I marvel at the diversity of life that has evolved on this Earth.

    Still, math captured my attention, if not my interest, because in elementary school, a teacher told me that math was a tool of science. Well, then, better learn math and at least get a decent grade!

    However, when I was in elementary school, I was taught math one way: through algorithms -- solving equations step by step -- in which there was one right way to get to the answer. I was okay at memorizing the steps, so I did well on math tests. I admit, though, that I never really understood the conceptual underpinnings of how math works or why following these prescribed steps led to the answer. I was one of those students who memorized for the test and then promptly forgot the math. Why? Math was not taught in context, and I never really figured out how to apply it fully to science.

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    Do you know if your students truly understand how math works or how they can apply it in the real world? Do you want them to like math? If so, take a hint from some great teachers who've integrated mathematical thinking and concepts with other subject areas. They teach math through solving problems in the context of real-world projects or problems:

    Professional Development Adds Up: Integrating Integers Across Disciplines

    Geometry in the Real World: Students As Architects

    Leapin' Lizards!: Students as Data Collectors

    Have great ideas about teaching mathematics? Share your story.