Maths Scholar Lara Timmins asks how do students learn?
All students learn in different ways. In any one class, there will often be a range of students who all learn and develop understanding in different ways. The ways in which students learn can vary depending on the subject – a student may learn best by copying information in one subject whilst they find the best way of developing understanding in another subject is to practice applying the information being taught.
children learn in very different ways
Practice makes perfect
In maths, many teachers will agree that the best and most effective method of learning is often through practice, for example using material learnt to answer questions. This practice strategy is often effective for classes of all ages, particularly older classes who need to familiarise themselves with the styles of question that they could be asked in an exam and the processes that they need to follow to answer the questions.
Questioning is key
Students don’t have to answer questions correctly – exploration is part of the learning process
An opinion often shared by students is that the aim is to always answer questions correctly and that it is bad to get answers wrong. This is a view that could be detrimental to the self-esteem of students, particularly when learning more difficult material where students are more likely to struggle with finding correct answers. In lessons, it is very important that students are not made to feel that they need to always answer questions correctly; they should perhaps even be encouraged to appreciate incorrect answers and to use them as a method of learning. Incorrect answers can be used as a tool for learning, where students can spot the mistakes and recognise such mistakes in their own work, hence learning and developing understanding.
Concentration and attention span have an effect on learning
Traditional attitudes to mathematics teaching have changed
An aspect that also affects the ways in which students learn is the age of the students. Younger classes may often have a shorter attention span and might find it difficult to consume large amounts of material in a short space of time. For these students, an effective teaching method is sometimes to provide small amounts of information at a time and to allow plenty of time for practice where the students can develop their own understanding of the material and how it is applied.
Overall, there are many ways in which students learn, depending on a variety of factors. It is important that teachers are aware of different learning styles and aim to adapt their teaching methods to suit different classes and students.
Lara Timmins is a Maths Scholar. If you would like to challenge your own thinking and really explore how mathematics is learned then being a Maths Scholar is just right for you. Apply to be a Maths Scholar now and change your world, your career and future careers of the students you teach. Do it now!