15 Creative Ways to Make Math Fun for Your StudentsAll Posts
Written by Maria Kampen
- Teaching Activities
The bell rings, you tell students to take out their math work, and then...groans of disappointment.
When it comes to learning math, not every student is a fan. But at Prodigy, we believe in making math fun and helping students love the learning journey.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for engaging your math class, because it’s a process that looks different for every student. We’ve put together a list of ways to help every student in your class love math.
Keep reading to find the one that’s right for your classroom!
Teachers can bring positivity to math lessons
Why some kids don't enjoy math
Because every kid is different, they might have different reasons for dreading math class or avoiding their math homework.
- Difficulty — If a student is struggling to keep up with their math homework or understand lessons, it’s very easy for them to disengage and get discouraged or anxious.
- Boredom — If students aren’t being challenged enough or need extra resources to stay occupied, math work they’ve already mastered can cause them to become bored and disengage.
- General interest — Maybe your student really likes reading, science or art more than math facts. They could be prioritizing work in these classes, or simply be uninterested in paying attention to math.
- Math anxiety — Testing and grades give some students a lot of anxiety. This stress is exacerbated when they’re struggling to master new concepts, causing them to become overwhelmed and lose focus.
15 Secrets to make math fun
Whether they’re bored or anxious, disengaged or struggling, these 15 math class secrets can help you engage every student in your class — regardless of how they feel about math.
Keep reading to find some of the best ways to make math fun and help your students build a love of learning!
1. Math games
Math games are a tried-and-true method for bringing excitement and competition to your classroom. Whether online or in person, math games can engage your students and align to your lesson plan.
Popular math games include:
- Card games like War, where two students use multiplication, subtraction or even exponent rules to build cards with a higher value than their opponent’s.
- Math stations filled with number blocks and other manipulatives during play-based learning activities for younger students.
- Math board games that help students learn basic math facts, while also building socio-emotional skills like turn-taking and collaboration. Try filling a tic-tac-toe board with math facts, or hosting a math bingo game for the whole class!
Prodigy Math Game is a video game-inspired learning platform that transforms math into an epic adventure. Created for first to eighth grade, students can complete quests, earn rewards and collect pets as they learn.
2. Visual aids and picture books
If you’ve got a classroom full of visual learners, then charts, picture books and other visual aids can help them make sense of new concepts and provide reference points as they work.
Printables, anchor charts and diagrams are readily available on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers to make classroom set up easy and stress-free. You can even have students make their own visual aids to help them remember key terms and concepts!
Picture books are also a great way to engage students that prefer seeing and reading to math work. Some of our favorites are:
- G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book by David M. Schwartz — Best for students in 4th to 8th grade, this math book explores interesting math concepts for every letter of the alphabet.
- Bean Thirteen by Matt McElligot — Ralph and Flora are trying to get rid of the unlucky thirteenth bean, but it keeps coming back! This story is a goofy exploration of remainders and division.
- Uno’s Garden by Graeme Base — Search for different plants and animals in the forest where Uno lives. Students have to complete skills, puzzles and multiplication questions to finish the adventure.
Whether it’s reading or drawing, there’s something to help every student learn new math skills!
3. Using modern technology
When it comes to teaching math, modern technology can broaden perspectives and give students new ways to engage with the world around them.
Math is Fun offers students games and math puzzles that balance fun with skills-building challenges.
Tablets and smartphones give students new ways to engage with math on their own terms. We put together a list of the 13 best math apps for kids, but our favourites include:
- Prodigy Math Game, an adaptive math adventure game.
- Dragon Box, a colorful math app that turns concepts like algebra and multiplication into a fun game.
- Khan Academy, a non-profit organization that creates video lessons for a variety of different topics and levels.
4. Take a hands-on approach
Every teacher knows worksheets aren’t always the most engaging.
A hands-on approach in the math classroom means finding real-life examples of formulas and concepts, or including student interests in relevant work problems.
Try a beach ball toss with equations written on each section or bake with your students to learn about fractions! Math puzzles like KenKen, Magic Squares and tangram puzzles can also help kinesthetic learners practice their skills.
The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives also put traditional math tools online for greater accessibility. Ideal for one-to-one device use or station rotations, it offers manipulation tasks for every grade level.
5. Encourage communication with students and parents
Understanding students and connecting with parents are both equally important, for different reasons. Parent teacher conferences and quick notes home are ways for you to share positive notes and get valuable insights into how students feel about math.
Math journaling is a great way to have students reflect on what they’re struggling with, what they enjoy doing and where they think they need more practice. You might read things that confirm your insights, or find something new!
6. Focus on your students
It’s easy to focus on just getting through your curriculum for the year — after all, isn’t that what students need to learn the most?
But a shift to student-centered learning techniques can help you support the needs of every student in your classroom. Student-centered learning involves kids in decisions about their studies, helps them build a growth mindset and encourages them to make connections between concepts.
Some common student-centered techniques include:
- Interdisciplinary learning that mixes math with other subjects
- Service learning projects to combine academic goals with community service
- Personalized learning through regular formative assessments and pre-teaching
- Student-led conferences that involve students in feedback and decision-making about their learning
7. Stick to fixed routines
Building a fixed math class routine can help students feel settled and confident when math class starts, especially if they struggle with math anxiety.
Outline expectations and what students need to show up to class with, whether that’s a sharp pencil and paper, or just a sharp mind.
Pick something to start your lesson with, whether it’s introducing a new concept or reviewing an old one:
- Give students a discussion question and ask how they solved it
- Put some vocab words on the board and ask students to define them
- Challenge older students to analyze a piece of mathematical writing from another scholar
Spend the middle of your lesson teaching or giving your class hands-on experience with new concepts:
- Set up station rotation activities and small group instruction
- Use blended learning techniques to promote hands-on activities and group work
- Give a mini-lesson and then hands-on practice with worksheets or other activities
End class on a high note with quick activities that reinforce learning:
- Ask students to summarize what they learned, in writing or out loud
- Have students work individually or in pairs to answer a quick wrap-up question
- Set up an exit ticket activity so students can show you what they learned, either by submitting a piece of paper or answering a question before they leave
8. Use real objects
There are plenty of math tools that can help students picture abstract math concepts in the real world, including:
- Play money
- Abacus for counting and number sense
- Spheres, prisms and other shapes for geometry
- Manipulatives like base ten blocks, number lines and clocks
- Small objects like gummy bears, buttons or rocks for pattern making
- Flashcards for subtraction, addition, multiplication and division facts, or other math vocabulary terms
Incorporate these items into problem-solving activities for more ways to learn.
9. Physical involvement
Techniques that get students moving, out of their seats or just engaging in hands-on learning activities can help a variety of different learners. In your classroom, try:
- Writing and acting out skits about math concepts
- A scavenger hunt for geometric shapes or patterns
- Brain breaks to help students stay focused during long stretches of class
- Interactive games like flash cards, dice, manipulatives or “Around the World” with relevant math problems
Think-pair-share activities and flipped classrooms can also help students get hands-on experience and talk through new ideas with peers in real time.
10. Use interesting and engaging questions
If you have two morph marbles, use one in a Prodigy math battle, and then earn two more, how many morph marbles do you have?
Word problems are a great way to connect student interests with your lesson plans. If you’re not sure what students like, send out a quick survey or ask them about their favorite books, TV shows or video games.
They’ll be delighted when they find their favorite Prodigy character or TV show on your next handout, and you’ll have a class full of students actually excited about doing their homework.
11. Address learning issues promptly
If you notice students falling behind (or racing ahead), address it early to avoid any long-term engagement problems.
One-on-one instruction or small groups can help you pay attention to individual learning needs. A mixture of group and individual work can help all learners absorb information in the way they learn best, too.
Use response to intervention (RTI) methods to address small and large learning issues promptly. RTI focuses on early and continuous identification, assessment and assistance of students who have learning and behavioural needs.
If the learning needs are serious, talk to parents and administration about setting up an IEP or 504 plan to make sure students can access support that helps them succeed and stay engaged.
12. Integrate math into other subjects
Whether it’s statistics in social studies or angles in art, there are endless ways to connect topics and inspire students to learn more.
Incorporate math talk into other subjects as part of interdisciplinary teaching activities to help students stay engaged — especially if the second subject is something they’re more interested in.
13. Keep lessons fun and interactive
Fun math activities can help you keep students engaged and learning, whether it’s short and silly brain breaks between worksheets or station rotations with a mix of small group and individual work.
Be sure to offer lots of opportunities for students to get involved answering questions or helping with hands-on demonstrations. For more interactive lessons, try modern teaching methods like inquiry-based learning that let students follow their own interests and passions!
14. Incorporate technology for personalized learning
One of the best ways to ensure students are excited about learning is to offer personalized learning opportunities and differentiated content. But in a big and busy classroom, that can be time-consuming and tricky!
Prodigy’s free teacher account comes with tools that help you gather insights while students play. Instead of spending hours grading assignments and developing differentiated math practice, Prodigy helps you tailor content for the learning needs of your students.
15. Apply lessons to life
“Are we really ever going to use this in real life?” is a common phrase heard in many math classrooms.
To help students understand the benefits and wonder of math, relate what they’re learning to the real world! Have students research different career paths that use the concepts they’re learning, or invite members of the community to speak about how they use math in their jobs.
Who knows where in life it could lead your students?
Turning the math classroom into a healthy environment
No matter what students are learning, a fun and positive environment is a foundation for academic and personal success.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try several different techniques to make math fun in your classroom! See which ones students respond to best, then use them to keep your students loving math class.
Prodigy Math Game makes math class an epic adventure with quests, rewards and new worlds to explore. As students play and answer math questions, you can differentiate and collect insights with free and effective teacher tools. Try it today!