Set a Solid Foundation for Math Instruction

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Classroom Application
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TF Blog - Math InstructionDo you spend a lot of time searching for ideas when teaching Math?  Or perhaps you find it difficult to find quality teaching ideas for challenging your students? Maybe it is time to go back to the basics and begin your search with resources from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Founded in 1920, it is the world’s largest mathematics education organization containing over 80,000 members. Packed full of resources for math teachers of all levels, it is the perfect go-to resource for finding lessons and resources that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Learn more at our TeachersFirst review of NCTM.


NCTM offers two very comprehensive sites for teachers and students, beginning with their master siteThis where you will find classroom resources, publications, grant opportunities, and more. In addition, NCTM provides support for teachers through position statements on matters affecting teachers such as legislation, early childhood learning, and access to quality mathematics education for all learners.

Try these ideas to get the most out of the NCTM site:

  • Start  your exploration in the classroom resources section.
  • Narrow down your search to the type of resources you want to find, such as lesson plans, web interactive, or problems.  
  • Apply filters to find the specific topic and grade level you need.
  • Narrow your search to a specific Common Core Standard or Standards, making it easy to stay right on target for the perfect lesson!
  • Choose a specific topic instead of just one standard because there isn’t always a lesson available for every single standard.

Your results will appear as a list of available resources. Each item includes a link to the activity along with a description of the type of activity, content topics addressed, appropriate grade level, and a list of standards addressed. Many activities are web-based and offer apps for download on mobile devices, making them perfect for use in your technology-based classroom. Unfortunately, some activities are only available with paid membership; however, many are free and ready for immediate use.

Consider becoming a paid member of NCTM either as an individual or school.

  • Membership includes a monthly print subscription to Teaching Children Mathematics (preK – Grade 6) or Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School (Grade 5 – 9).
  • In addition, paid members receive access to all online activities, archived journals, and book discounts.
  • We all know money is very tight, so if your school is not able to provide membership, you can try requesting donations from Donors Choose or add a request for membership to your class wish list on Teacher Lists.

NCTM’s companion site, Illuminations, provides quality, standards-based resources for teaching and learning mathematics in all grade levels.  Illuminations resources are divided into two categories – lessons and interactives. As you search and browse, narrow down information by choosing from items corresponding to NCTM Standards or Common Core Standards as desired. Additional filters also allow you to narrow by grade level band, content, or search by keywords. Although the entire site is fantastic, be sure to check out my two favorite sections as you are looking around.

  • Brain Teasers  -offers a large selection of teasers to use without any preparation. Click to view the solution, or download the teaser and the solution as a PDF. These teasers are great for use as centers, problem of the week, or as an additional challenge to your more advanced students. Challenge them to solve Brain Teasers then share their thinking process with classmates on your interactive whiteboard. Videotape students sharing their thinking and share on your class web site as an excellent way to actively engage students in their own learning process while celebrating their success.
  • Calculation Nation – is the gaming center. Here students compete on their own or play against others from around the world. Registration is required to compete against others, so be sure to take proper precautions such as having students create a unique user name for their screen name and not their own name when playing. Email is required for registration. Calculation Nation includes games teaching several different skills such as fractions, transformations, factors, and perimeter. These games are perfect for sharing on your class website for students to “play” at home.

Visit the section for Parents and Educators to read overviews of each game offering tips on how to extend learning and suggested resources that correlate with each topic. These sections are also excellent for use during “Meet the Teacher Nights” or parent conferences to share with parents to help them understand concepts found within each of the games.

Don’t be afraid to allow students to access games that you think may be too hard. You might be surprised how quickly they figure things out on their own!  Offer Calculation Nation as an option during your computer lab time with all students. Some students may be quickly turned off if they find activities difficult, but there is usually one class member that has a bit more determination and likes to work until they have figured out how to play. As they do this, they are learning valuable math concepts embedded in the game along with using logic, problem solving skills, and critical thinking. As these students become “experts”, other students will watch and learn from their game play and it is amazing to see comprehension expand through self-paced learning and game play!

Both NCTM and Illuminations provide engaging and quality materials for any math classroom. Consider using these sites as  your foundation for finding lessons, games, activities and more that support teaching and learning of Mathematics through research-based practices. Used on their own as a resource for building your math program or as a supplement to a pre-made curriculum, users can feel confident that these sites will provide meaningful learning experiences for all students.  

What are your “go to” Math sites? We would love to hear from you and how you make the most of online math resources in your classroom.

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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