How can innovative teaching methods help students better understand math? “More students are involved when asked to be central to the learning environment,” says Erin Krupa, an associate professor.

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Moving away from traditional ways of teaching math and introducing innovative and non-traditional programs to the classroom can help students become more interested and better learn to do math, says an associate professor at NC State College of Education. Erin Krupa.

Krupp’s research aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning mathematics and to make mathematics fairer through innovative teaching materials. She said innovative methods of teaching mathematics are important because they can better help students make connections between concepts and help them develop ideas for themselves.

“I think we know that traditional math methods don’t occupy all children, and standing at a blackboard, listening to a teacher and taking notes doesn’t take students,” Krupa said. “More students are involved when asked to take a central place in the learning environment and perform actions that engage them in the process. It makes them feel like valuable students in society. ”

Part of the introduction of innovative curricula in the classroom, Krupa said, means that students’ learning must be ensured by the fact that they conduct research that allows them to discover key mathematical concepts.

For example, when teaching geometry lessons, Krupa likes students to fold square sheets of paper and draw conclusions about what happens, mathematically, to the resulting triangles through the act of addition. From there, students can develop assumptions and complete formal proof.

“After the investigation, they discover some key mathematical concepts, and then are more likely to memorize them, because they figured it out themselves,” said Krupa. “Just this brief study for themselves helps them get new training.”

Connecting mathematics with the real world

Using more than $ 7 million in external grant funding, Krupa’s study examines a variety of innovative curricula that could be implemented in math classrooms.

For example, her “Using animated contrast cases to improve procedural and conceptual knowledge of geometry” The project develops animated digital materials designed to highlight a variety of geometric features and help students better understand the theory of mathematical concepts they are studying.

Her latest project, “Design Challenges and Trends in STEM: Combining Entrepreneurship and Learning Mathematics,” develops nine design tasks based on the high school math curriculum that will encourage students to create, test, and refine STEM product prototypes, develop business plans to demonstrate product viability, and present their products to a jury. The project is based on one led by Honored Professor of Mathematical Education Jere Confrey, Ph.D..

By engaging students in non-traditional activities such as entrepreneurship competitions, educators can connect math to real-world applications that make lessons meaningful and relevant to students.

“It has to do with the interests of students in their communities and in their world. They develop solutions to solve pressing problems that concern children, and in the process they select mathematics, “- said Krupa. “It helps them relate math to other STEM topics, but also just to solving problems in the world.”

Using innovative lessons to make math accessible to everyone

Teachers who want to engage students in innovative ways of learning math, Krupa said, could borrow from Design and Pitch competitions on a smaller scale, introducing tasks or problems based on real context.

By doing this, students can see math as a tool to solve problems of interest to them as they develop a motivation to memorize and want to use the math skills they are learning.

Developing these skills, Krupa said, is important not only for students who want to pursue a career in STEM, but for everyone, as these abilities are valuable and applicable even in professions that are not traditionally classified as STEM jobs.

For example, Krupa said she has seen fashion designers apply STEM skills to use LED technology to design dresses, and pottery makers use chemistry and math to control their art.

“Often math is one of those landmarks you need that opens the door to all other courses. It is important that all students feel capable, and there are no obstacles to this success. We are talking about not closing the way for students just because of the subject, ”Krupa said. “My goal is to make math more fun and exciting so that when you reach a place in your career, regardless of your discipline, you can find meaning and use it in math.”

However, as teachers work to bring new and innovative lessons to their classes, Krupa said they will need to be patient. Making these changes can take time, and the results are not always visible right away.

To engage students in change, Krupa also invites educators to share their motivations for using innovative curricula.

“I think it’s important that you have to set new standards in your class at the beginning and you can’t give up,” she said. “Talk to students about why you’re doing this, that you value their opinions and care about how they think and study math, and want to make it easier and more accessible.”

How can innovative teaching methods help students better understand math? “More students are involved when asked to be central to the learning environment,” says Erin Krupa, an associate professor.

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