Making It Real When They Struggle

I think I’ve discovered the number one problem in just about every math classroom.  It’s a problem that I see over and over in every math classroom.  Students that struggle and students that excel have this problem. They tend to look only at numbers, not thinking about what they represent.   They try to memorize vocabulary without connecting those words to anything in their life.  We race through math curriculum teaching quickly because we have to get through SO MUCH CONTENT.  With standards and interventions and assessments to give, we don’t have time to think about what the numbers and vocabulary mean.

So we have to sneak it in.

We need to make math real all day.  Not in some silly contrived way, but to make our thinking known as we notice math throughout the day. Take this example of real life geometry:


When we connect these terms to their real life, they begin to sink in, and you don’t have to write some fancy lesson for it.  When they open their pencil box, their desk, their books we can mention these words and bring the vocabulary into the front of their minds.

When we have two packs of gum, let’s connect it to numbers.  Do we have enough for the whole class? Is there another way I can write that number sentence?


If you think about it, we read all day long, we write all day long…let’s make an effort to bring mathematics forward all day long!



  1. I figured this out finally a few weeks ago:
    There are problems and there are number problems.
    There are problems and there are algebra problems.
    There are NO word problems.

    If a student cannot see, or visualise, the problem then no amount of number or algebra stuff is going to lead to a real answer.
    What is the problem asking you to do? What, in the problem, is “the answer”? To the problem !!!!!



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