Virtual Math Instruction: Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks - Markers & Minions
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Virtual Math Instruction: Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

virtual math blog post

We’re a couple of months into what may be the strangest school year yet! How’s virtual math instruction going for you? Even if you are teaching in person, I bet your classroom looks very different in terms of movement, shared materials, and student interaction. Technology has been a lifesaver as we figure out how to teach during a pandemic, but narrowing down our best tools can be tricky at times. 

Teachers are always innovative and quick to solve problems, and that couldn’t be more true these days! Here are some of the best tips and tricks I’ve come across for teaching math virtually. Many of these can also work for your face-to-face classroom as you limit the sharing of materials. 

How to Make Virtual Math Instruction More Hands On

One of the best ways to make math concepts easier to conceptualize is by using manipulatives. If you teach elementary school math, chances are you have a major stash of items like counting bears, coins, base-ten blocks, clocks, and snap blocks. 

How do you achieve a hands-on math lesson virtually, or in a socially distanced classroom? 

Digital Manipulatives

This is probably my favorite tech tip for teaching math remotely. Use digital versions of your go-to math manipulatives. You can insert movable blocks, coins, bears, base ten blocks, and more into Interactive Google Slides or Powerpoints. Students can then drag and drop the items. It’s a handy, no-contact way to help students visualize their math concepts. My digital math bundles include a variety of digital manipulatives.

Digital Math Slides for Virtual Instruction

Send Supplies Home

Consider sending materials directly to students at their homes, either through snail mail or as a porch drop-off. Natalie and Trinka, two teachers who commented on my Facebook, shared that they sent home personal white boards and number charts, and Natalie says that the white boards show her “who is engaged and their understanding as well.” Sending materials home isn’t always possible of course, but if you already have the supplies in your classroom, you could pack up a bundle of items like white boards, charts, dry erase markers with page protectors, decks of playing cards, and more. 

Show Your Work

And I do mean your work! Normally, you would show students your thought process by working out a problem on your smartboard or white board at the front of the classroom. You can still do that with remote learning! Here are a few ways to achieve this:  

Bring home a document camera and record yourself working through math problems on paper. I use the HUE document camera.

Use a stylus and drawing pad to show students your work. If you’re a GoodNotes user, you can also use your Apple Pencil to write onto lessons you create in GoodNotes, and you can share your iPad screen as you teach. Allison Owens from The Classy Cat Classroom has figured out how to do this brilliantly!

Point the camera at your white board and record as you work. The simplest solution.

How to Keep Students Engaged With Virtual Math Instruction

Digital worksheets are okay to use from time to time, but if that’s the only tool in your remote teaching arsenal, your kids may get bored. Try mixing things up with these tips for keeping students engaged during virtual math instruction: 

  1. Use interactive slides. Students can actively participate by dragging and dropping shapes, symbols, numbers, and more. You can also add in links to short video clips, tutorials, or online games. Check out my Design With Me video series for step-by-step instructions on how to make your own interactive resources! 
  1. Have students work in small groups via a breakout room. You can pop in and out to offer support live on video, which helps you foster relationships with your students. 
  1. Use the text chat. Students often feel more comfortable typing a question rather than speaking up via their screens. 

Try to encourage active participation and interaction as much as possible, rather than asking students to be passive observers. 

How to Give Quality Feedback During Online Instruction

Feedback is so important as kids work on their math concepts. With remote learning, you can’t just walk by a student’s desk to see how they are progressing. You need to build in frequent check-ins and show students how they can self-assess properly. Here are a few ways to do that: 

  1. Use Google Forms to assign self-grading quizzes. There are a lot of cool features available with Forms. You can even make them adaptable, so the questions change based on students’ prior response. Click here to grab Google Form quizzes for your grade level standards.
  1. Include an answer slide in your interactive slide decks, and teach your students how to use it to make sure they’re on the right track. 
  1. Assign “bell ringers” or exit tickets as quick ways to check understanding. With digital learning, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep lessons and assessments short and sweet to minimize burnout—for you and for the kids! 

Do you have any tips for virtual math instruction?
Share what’s working for you in the comments!

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