Set tasks that are easy to start
In a remote learning environment, students don’t have you immediately available to provide support and may find it difficult to ask for help from their family members. You can make it easier for students to get started with their maths by setting tasks that:
- Require minimal instruction.
- Have a simple starting point.
- Use easily accessible materials.
Create opportunities for success
Maths is challenging and in a remote learning environment we are expecting students to be motivated to persist. Success with tasks will aid in building intrinsic motivation. As you set tasks, consider the following questions:
- Are all students expected to get to the same end point?
- How will students know they have learned what they need to learn?
- What have students already learned or not learned?
- What tools, techniques or strategies are they familiar with?
Help students help themselves
As students learn maths remotely, it can be challenging to not have you at hand. But, this can also provide an opportunity for students to learn how to help themselves. Explicitly teach students strategies that they can use, such as:
- Using classroom discussion forums for asking and answering one another’s questions.
- Searching for more information on recommended websites or YouTube channels.
- Breaking down a task into smaller or simpler parts.
- Leaving a task and then coming back to it later with a fresh perspective.
Use apps and tools to share thinking
If you are continuing to teach students in real-time or using self-paced learning, it can be more difficult for you and your students to share ideas and strategies. This is where online apps and tools can help:
- Virtual manipulatives, such as blocks, fraction bars, grid paper, number lines and dice, can be used in exploring new concepts and to aid problem solving.
- Shared whiteboards allow multiple people to share ideas in the same space or for “working out” to be demonstrated step-by-step.
- Photos of workbooks can be used where students have limited access to technology.
Get students involved
Students are some of your best resources when shifting to distance learning. Whatever approach you take, make it sustainable by having students be active partners in their learning by implementing the following strategies:
- What might students find interesting to learn, or learning that is relevant to their own lives?
- Have students design puzzles, games or problems for their peers to solve.
- Get students to use self-assessment and reflect regularly on how they are going. This will provide formative data for you.
- Search or ask for ideas on tasks, tools and assessment strategies from colleagues or on social media.
Michaela Epstein is a maths educator and avid learner. She is founder of Maths Teacher Circles, a senior advisor at RMIT and past president of the Mathematical Association of Victoria. Michaela tweets at @mic_epstein. You can share these strategies and more resources like this in our COVID-19 Response Resource Bank.