
Creative
Teaching Ideasby Gisele Glosser
There are lots of creative ways to make math fun
for your class. In fact, humor can serve as a mnemonic that leads to retention of
material. Here are some creative ideas that I have used with my students. 

The Decimal Dance
When teaching students to multiply decimals, I
often find that they forget to account for decimal place value. To help them remember to
mark the decimal point, I use the decimal dance. At the chalkboard, I work out the product
of the numbers. Then I simply exaggerate the motion of counting decimal places. I make a
large white arc under each digit until I have accounted for the correct number of decimal
places. By calling this The Decimal Dance, students remember to account for decimal
place value after multiplying decimals. It may sound silly, but it works.
Try my
Decimal Dance Game. 

Front Loading
Most teachers start the
school year by reviewing previously learned concepts. However, this
is a time when students are most motivated to learn. Why not
introduce a new topic they've never seen before? This technique,
known as Front Loading, shows students that you intend to challenge
them, and sets the tone for the year. I front load by introducing
Integers in September. You
can also try my Integer Football Game. 

Fractions and Chocolate Bars
When introducing the concept of multiplying
fractions, I use 8 browncolored Unifix cubes to represent one chocolate bar. I offer 1/2
of the bar to a student. I ask that student to offer 1/4 of his/her piece to another
student. Then I ask the class "What fraction of the original chocolate bar did the
second student get?" Students quickly learn that a part of a part is a smaller part.
Next, I distribute Unifix cubes to each group and have students complete multiplication
exercises using both the cubes and arithmetic. They soon discover that the commutative law
applies to multiplication of fractions. Try my
Percent
Goodies Game for converting fractions to decimals and
percentages. 

Geometry and Gumby
Materials Required: 
shoebox, chalkboard,
scissors 
Activity Time: 
40 minutes 
Concepts Taught: 
side length, angles,
properties of polygons 
Preparation: 
Cut out the bottom of a shoe box, to get
a cardboard box that bends at all corners. 

I introduce the square, rectangle, parallelogram,
rhombus, and trapezoid at the chalkboard, noting the properties of each. To summarize the
lesson, I hold the shoebox in front of the class and say: "If you bend a rectangle
like Gumby, what quadrilateral do you get?" (parallelogram). Bending the shoe box
demonstrates the change in angles, and the fact the length of the sides has not changed. I
then ask: "If you bend a square like Gumby, what quadrilateral do you get?"
(rhombus). The whole thing sounds silly and that is exactly why my students remember it
so well! Try my indepth lessons on
Geometry and Measurement.


The Homework Wave
Every once in a while, I motivate students to do
their homework with the Homework Wave. If every student has completed their assignment,
they take out their assignment sheets and wave them. This is just like the wave in the
bleachers at a game, except that they are waving their homework instead of their arms.
Students enjoy this activity tremendously. See my article entitled Establishing a Homework
Policy. 

Median and the Middle Child
When I introduce students to range, mean, median
and mode, they sometimes have trouble remembering which is which. I teach them to
think of the median as the age of the middle child in a family. If there is an even
number of children, then the median is the mean of the two middlemost ages. Try my unit on
Mean,
Median and Mode. 

Probability and The Three Stooges
I usually teach Probability late in the school
year when students get restless. I use silly mnemonics to help students remember
Probability definitions. For certain events, I tell them to think of Curly Howard saying
"Coitanly". Thus, certain events are renamed "coitan
events". I even say "nyuk, nyuk, nyuk" for some laughs. Try my unit on
Probability. 

Repeating Decimals and The Monster
That Wouldn’t Die
Some students have trouble grasping the fact that
a repeating decimal goes on forever. I start with a simple fraction like onethird. At the
chalkboard, I divide the numerator by the denominator several times until a pattern
becomes apparent. I then ask the class what they think will happen if I continue to bring
down a zero from the dividend and divide. Most of them say that I will keep getting the same digit in the
quotient. To emphasize the concept of repeating decimals, I make an analogy to a monster
movie where the monster is relentless it just keeps coming back and never dies, no
matter how many times you try to kill it! Try my lesson on
Dividing
Decimals by Whole Numbers. 

Find more creative teaching
ideas on the Math Goodies CD. 
This article is by Gisele Glosser. You can find me on Google.

