How students learn best – by Max Fawcett

Max Fawcett

It is often believed that students are either auditory, visual or kinaesthetic learners – which is true, to an extent. Some students may learn better by doing activities instead of listening, while others may prefer visualising. However, studies say that the best approach is to incorporate all three simultaneously.

Please sir is it time to go now?

From personal experience, this is especially true when it’s the last lesson of the day: maths with year 8. The majority of them are probably waiting for the minutes to tick away leading up to home time. There are several tactics I have used during my lessons to help them learn, or retain what they have learnt through revision. I’ll mention two of them here.

Tarsias are everywhere including Pinterest

Tarsias are everywhere including Pinterest

Tarsia is NOT an exotic new cooking ingredient

The first is the use of tarsias – if you haven’t heard of tarsias before, I suggest you pause reading, and run a Google search now. In essence, a tarsia is a puzzle you can create for your students to match questions and answers, key words and definitions etc. by lining up sides of different cut-out shapes. Tarsias are highly flexible, as they can be created for a range of topics in maths: let’s take algebra as an example. You can decide on which sub-topics to base the tarsia you create – collecting like terms, expanding, factorising, linear equations, quadratics…there’s so much out there. Also, if you want to save time, I recommend looking towards TES and Mr Barton Maths for ready-made tarsias that can be edited. This links both kinaesthetic and visual learning. Tarsias can even be turned into a competition between pairs to see how many questions/answers they can match in 5 minutes.


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The second is the use of red/amber/green cards, or cards which have options such as yes/no, true/false or A/B/C/D for multiple-choice quizzes. I like to use them as a plenary at the end of the lesson – again from personal experience, I did a multiple-choice quiz with my year 8 class and they really enjoyed it. It’s also an opportunity to address any misconceptions, or spark a small debate between students to justify why they think they’re correct. What’s great is that this incorporates a combination of auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learning that maximises engagement. Because let’s face it: no student wants to do a stack of questions from the textbook every lesson.

So there we have it – two ways I think students can learn best in maths lessons. I encourage you to give them a go, and I’m sure you’ll get a positive response from your class!

Max is a Maths Scholar. If you’d like to apply for a scholarship then read all about how to get started on our Maths Scholars home page. Apply to be a Maths Scholar now but do read all our tips before you do. Good luck!