How to Teach Sixth Grade Math

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    • 1). Encourage students to master multiplication and division tables. Before a student can feel comfortable working with fractions and decimals, he must have his multiplication and division facts memorized. Although students are supposed to have these facts memorized before sixth grade, many do not. Spend the first few weeks of school practicing these facts and giving timed tests to ensure quick reactions to math facts.

    • 2). Teach the order of operations. Students need to be very familiar with the order of operations in order to complete more complicated problems later in the year. Use a mnemonic such as PEMDAS to help students remember the correct order.

    • 3). Teach with math manipulatives. According to Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard, there are eight intelligences. "In 1983, I concluded that seven candidate intelligences met the criteria sufficiently well: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Most standard measures of intelligence primarily probe linguistic and logical intelligence; some survey spatial intelligence; the remaining four are almost entirely ignored. In 1995, invoking new data that fit the criteria, I added an eighth intelligence---that of the naturalist." Use math manipulatives such as counting rods, geometric projects and drawings. Acting out math concepts is also beneficial. Strategies such as these utilize many intelligences and provide concrete practice for abstract concepts.

    • 4). Provide authentic practice for students. Whenever possible, give students activities that use real-life situations to practice abstract concepts. For example, double recipes when learning about fractions, build 3-D shapes or create art when teaching geometry, or discuss shopping and prices when teaching positive and negative integers. Julie Williams suggests having this type of conversation with a sixth grade math student, "Yes, you can borrow $10 from me to afford that toy, but that means your account will go down to negative $10."

    • 5). Give formative and summative assessments throughout the year. Although you will give your students quizzes and tests, it's also important to informally check understanding in between formal assessments. This can be done through collecting homework, asking students to complete problems on the board or asking students to verbalize what they have learned.


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