Math is undoubtedly a vital subject as it forms part of our everyday life. However, many children in elementary school struggle to understand it, making them feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Could this struggle be because math is also challenging for teachers?

**Math is a hard class for most elementary school teachers. Causes of this problem include the choice of teaching methods and teachers’ level of expertise. Moreover, there’s a lack of subject specialists since elementary school teachers handle several subjects.**

This article explores a few topics related to the question, including the challenges that teachers face when teaching math in elementary schools and their remedies. Keep reading to learn more about what might make math class hard for elementary school teachers.

## What Challenges Do Elementary Teachers Face Teaching Math?

Elementary school teachers teach fundamental subjects to learners from kindergarten to the sixth grade. Hence, they form a vital part of the education system since they assist the children in developing positive learning abilities and social skills.

However, most elementary teachers face issues while teaching some subjects, especially math.

**Lack of specialization is the biggest challenge that elementary teachers face in math class. Furthermore, many teachers have a negative attitude towards the subject, while others use ineffective teaching methods. Also, some educators lack the zeal and expertise to teach math efficiently.**

Now, let’s have a deeper look at these challenges:

### Lack of Subject Experts

Elementary school teachers handle all subject areas in the same class. These include math, science, social studies, languages, arts, music, and reading.

Hence, they generalize, which can be overwhelming with the changing educational dynamics.

It’s essential to have a deep understanding of math concepts to impart the right attitude and instruction to elementary students effectively. Unfortunately, many teachers lack this capability since they don’t specialize in the subject.

And some experts acknowledge that the lack of subject experts in mathematics is one of the reasons why it’s challenging to teach the subject. If a teacher doesn’t understand the basic mathematical logic, it will be challenging to instruct learners adequately.

### Ineffective Teaching Methods

In the early years of learning, teachers impart a positive learning attitude to learners. Therefore, it would help if elementary teachers applied effective teaching methods to make students like and enjoy math class.

However, most teachers lack adequate time to prepare for each subject since they handle several areas. Therefore, they might find it hard to develop the best approaches to teach the subject. And some only rely on textbooks for knowledge and insights.

For instance, they might emphasize repetitions and memorization to help learners solve problems to pass their tests. But they fail at making the kids grasp the deeper meaning of arithmetic.

### Negative Perceptions

A teacher passionate about other subjects will find it challenging to teach math.** **So, they won’t be enthusiastic about math and may even have anxiety, which will affect the delivery of content.

Other educators have a negative attitude towards math, while some fear teaching it. Students can also acquire these perceptions from teachers, resulting in a dismal performance.

So, a teacher with no passion for math will find it hard to employ effective teaching methods**.**

### Lack of Expertise

According to the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), high school students in the US performed dismally in math compared to their counterparts in countries like Japan. One of the reasons for this observation was that they have a poor foundation since most elementary school teachers are high school graduates.

Hence, such teachers lack the expertise to teach the subject. Moreover, they lack a deeper understanding of the underlying logic of mathematics.

So, such teachers aren’t confident and require professional learning systems to boost their skills.

## Strategies That Elementary Teachers Can Use in Teaching Math

Elementary math curriculums are often not as effective and exhaustive as they should be. Therefore, teachers should devise strategies to help learners comprehend math ideas like addition, subtraction, multiplication division, or decimals.

Teachers can employ various approaches to make math easy and fun to study. Such strategies also improve the learners’ performance in the subject and include:

### Using Hands-On Teaching Methods

Hands-on teaching methods ensure that each learner is actively involved in learning. Using these approaches makes it easy for students to understand abstract math concepts, and math becomes more interesting.

These methods include:

- Use of geoboards to learn about shapes and do geometry activities for fun. For example, learners can model plasticine into different shapes or join it with toothpicks to form 2D or 3D shapes.
- Setting up a play store where learners can practice buying and selling. It makes it easy for learners to learn about addition and subtraction.
- Using dice rolls to learn place value, ‘less than,’ ‘equal to,’ or ‘greater than.’

### Using Visual Aids

Most learners in their early ages learn best by seeing as opposed to hearing. Charts and talking walls make it easy to understand some concepts as the learners use a different part of their brain to learn.

Hence, using buttons, blocks, sticks, stones, or other objects to explain multiplication and division makes the concepts natural and easy to comprehend.

### Integrating Games Into Learning

Most elementary students find math class boring. But these kids love playing. So, including games in math learning can make it active and enjoyable.

Some games to include in math class include:

**101 and out:**It involves rolling two dice twice and then multiplying or adding the numbers to get a number close to 101. The game enhances competition and stimulates strategic thinking. Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating how to play this game:

**War**: It’s a card game that helps children practice multiplication, subtraction, and addition. The YouTube video below shows how to play it:

**Math hopscotch:**It involves drawing a calculator or hopscotch on the floor. Then, the teacher mentions numbers and lets learners hop on the numbers that show the sum. You can apply digital learning tools like the prodigy math game to make math more adventurous and exciting.

### Linking Math Concepts to Everyday Life

Math can be more interesting if learners know its relevance to everyday life. Show your students how some concepts relate to their environment.

Here are some examples:

**World problems****that portray the learners’ interests and lives**. They make learning real and practical.**Service-learning**. It helps learners understand the community’s needs and develop communication skills and self-awareness. It also boosts their interest in math.**Project-based learning**. It entails guiding learners to identify a problem and letting them carry out a project to solve the problem. It encourages learning by discovery through engagement and develops problem-solving skills.

### Allowing Learners To Explain Their Thinking

It’s not advisable to jump into giving learners a formula and explaining facts, as it leads to rote learning. Instead, allow learners to think through a problem and come up with their ways of finding solutions. Thus, this encourages critical thinking among the learners.

Moreover, giving learners time to explain their way of doing things to the class boosts their confidence and self-esteem.

Later you can show learners other ways of solving the problem.

### Giving Frequent Guidance and Feedback

When applying learner-centered methods in teaching, a teacher becomes a guide. Hence, your frequent guidance throughout the learning process and instant feedback on learners’ progress motivate them to do more. Therefore, they develop a growth mindset.

Also, it helps to identify challenges that learners are facing in their learning process in time and address them before they build up.

**Note:** You can develop rubrics or other assessment tools to assess every learner’s achievement.

### Using Positive Reinforcement

Children love rewards for any achievement, however small. Hence, positive reinforcement makes them yearn to do more. After a project or test, celebrate what the learners have achieved.

You can do this verbally or by giving tokens of appreciation.

If there’s a budget for the celebration, involve students in drafting it. Others can do decorations and add more fun to the event. You can also use this opportunity to teach some math concepts.

### Personalizing Learning

Personalized learning involves taking care of every learner’s unique needs, interests, abilities, likes, and dislikes. So, it’s essential to give differentiated learning to each student depending on their learning characteristics.

You can apply various learning methods for the different classes of learners, but with a shared end goal.

Personalized learning ensures no learner is idle or bored during the learning process as everyone is active as per their abilities.

### Encouraging Group Work

Group work encourages peer learning. Some learners find it easier to learn from their colleagues than from the teacher. Working in groups also develops the competency of communication and collaboration among the learners and nurtures leadership skills.

However, a teacher should be careful during group work to ensure that learners do not stray from the topic of discussion.

### Letting Concepts Build on One Another

Concepts in math are related, and no idea is independent of the others. So, building concepts from the easiest to the challenging ones helps greatly. And it’s essential to take time to lay a strong background any time you’re introducing a new concept.

Also, practice mastery learning so that every learner learns successfully irrespective of their abilities. Moreover, assess learners after introducing a concept so that you can easily monitor their learning. But, don’t cover so many ideas before evaluating because it will not be easy to tell whether students have ]achieved the outcomes.

## Final Thoughts

Math class is a challenge to many elementary school teachers. However, applying learner-centered teaching methods, as opposed to teacher-centered methods, makes the subject easier to teach, enjoyable, and fun.

## Sources

- Teacher Certification Degrees: Elementary School Teachers
- Stem Education Journal: Elementary Content Specialization
- Los Angeles Times: Math Scares Your Child’s Elementary School Teacher and That Should Scare You
- The Mathematics Enthusiast: Prospective Elementary Mathematics Teacher Content Knowledge
- Sciencing: How to Understand Mathematical Logic
- Knit: What is Hands-on Learning and What are the Benefits of this Type of Instruction?
- Boston University: Math Matters: The Importance of Mathematics in Elementary School
- Education Week: The Myth Fueling Math Anxiety
- Journal on Mathematics Education: Elementary School Obstacles in the Implementation of Problem-based Learning Model In Mathematics Learning
- YouTube: 101 and Out! A Game to Practice Number Sense
- YouTube: Math Card Game-War
- Farnam Street: Why Math Class is Boring
- NCEE: How Elementary Teachers Master their Subject in Top-Performing Countries
- University of Virginia Institutional Research and Analytics: Assessment Tools: Introduction
- Verywell Mind: Positive Reinforcement and Operant Conditioning
- Prodigy: 120 Math Word Problems To Challenge Students Grades 1 to 8
- Prodigy: How to Teach Elementary Math as Effectively as Possible
- Prodigy: 15 Geometry Activities to Engage Students Across Grade Levels
- Prodigy: Make Standard-Aligned Learning Fun with Prodigy
- The University of Chicago Press Journals: The Mathematical Understandings That Prospective Teachers Bring to Teacher Education
- Service-Learning in Mathematics: Primus: Cultivating a Productive Disposition Towards Mathematics by Engaging in Service-Learning
- Power School: Project-based learning: Benefits Examples and Resources
- NCTM: Personalized Learning and Mathematics Teaching and Learning
- HMH: 7 Strategies for Differentiated Math Instruction
- Connecticut State Government: 10 Principles of Mastery-Based Learning

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- Which Curriculum Is Better: American vs. International Baccalaureate (IB)

## FAQs

### What is best way to teach math to elementary students? ›

**10 Strategies for effectively teaching math to elementary schoolers**

- Use hands-on learning methods. ...
- Incorporate visuals. ...
- Integrate math games into math lessons. ...
- Connect math concepts to everyday life. ...
- Allow students to explain their reasoning. ...
- Give frequent feedback and direction. ...
- Reward progress. ...
- Personalize lessons.

**Is math difficult to teach? ›**

We can tell students that **math is very, very hard**. It's the truth. The techniques of algebra, geometry and calculus were hard to create, and they're hard to learn. But saying so forthrightly doesn't come naturally to a lot of teachers — or to commenters on education.

**Do you have to be good at maths to be a maths teacher? ›**

**Mathematics teachers should possess strong math skills and knowledge and be able to communicate math principles effectively to their students**. Math teachers need patience and understanding in order to promote students' critical thinking skills and ability to utilize math in everyday life.

**How do you teach mathematics in struggling students? ›**

**Connecting activities to what students have already learned**. Giving precise instructions. Scaffolding instruction so students have a chance to practice their emerging math skills and gradually solve whole problems. Encouraging students to verbally describe their strategy and rationale when solving a problem.

**What makes a great elementary math teacher? ›**

Good math teachers **show their students why the material they're learning matters and how it can be useful in actual situations**. Effective math teachers seize opportunities to get students out of the classroom to connect their learning to the real world in real-time.

**How do you engage students in math? ›**

**5 Tips to Help Get Students Engaged in High School Math**

- Relate to the real world. Most students do not believe that they will use what they are learning in high school math ever again. ...
- Give students choices. ...
- Use props. ...
- Find problems with more than one answer. ...
- Make students feel safe.

**How can weak elementary pupils improve in mathematics? ›**

Practice Makes Perfect

Over time, this develops into second nature in the athletes' thoughts and actions. Maths is similar to the repetition process, where students can improve on the subject drastically with **constant practice and understanding**.

**What is the hardest thing in teaching? ›**

**10 Challenges Of Teaching & How To Overcome Them**

- Understanding the different learning challenges amongst students. ...
- Student family problems & bullying. ...
- Lack of funding. ...
- Lack of effective communication. ...
- Being encouraging and motivating under challenging times. ...
- Disciplining students. ...
- Endless paperwork & extended working hours.

**What is the most difficult skill to teach? ›**

With **listening skills** usually requiring a considerably long period of time to acquire, normally involving the student experiencing a variety of emotions ranging from depression and frustration through to exhilaration and pride, teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks that a teacher faces.

**Which year of teaching is the hardest? ›**

**The first year** of teaching is the hardest. While being an educator is never without its struggles, the first year is by far the most challenging — pieced together with idealism, confusion, good intentions, excitement, fear, and expectations. But fear not.

### What qualities should a math teacher have? ›

**5 Qualities of a Mathematics Teacher**

- Empathetic and Encouraging.
- Familiar With the Material.
- Resourceful.
- Open-Minded and Culturally Aware.
- Collaborative and Engaging.

**What should math teachers know? ›**

Sound Knowledge of Mathematics

This includes knowledge of **geometry, statistics, algebra, arithmetic and calculus**. The knowledge they get from these institutions gives them the confidence to explain clearly all the mathematical concepts to their students and solve equations easily.

**What is the secret to being good at maths? ›**

**Practice, practice, practice**

It's simple - the more you practice maths, the better you'll become. So whenever you get a chance, do some extra math problems. You can even try teaching someone else. Just like sport, math requires consistent practice.

**How do you teach a slow learner in math? ›**

**Here are some tips to make math learning easy for a slow learner.**

- Stepwise Learning. Slow learners require a stepwise teaching methodology. ...
- Repeat Basic Concepts. Most slow learners forget what has been taught earlier, so you may have to start with the basic concepts again. ...
- Short Time Span. ...
- Conclusion.

**How do you motivate students in math? ›**

**5 Ways to Motivate Students to Learn Math Effectively**

- Transformational Teaching. Teaching has the potential to transform the lives of students as they look for opportunities for growth. ...
- Engage and Encourage. ...
- Acknowledge and Be Aware. ...
- Collaborate and Connect. ...
- Hold Students Accountable for Their Success.

**What challenges do teachers face in teaching mathematics? ›**

Math teachers face three major challenges: **Their beliefs about teaching and learning, their content and pedagogy knowledge, and time for reflection**.

**How can teachers overcome challenges in mathematics? ›**

**The following are some of the main strategies which would help you in overcoming problems in Math.**

- Practice to solve Mathematics problems on a daily basis. ...
- Start with the easiest problems. ...
- Solve problems in groups. ...
- Solve problems thoroughly.

**What do most people struggle with in math? ›**

**Basic Concepts Are Not Clear**

The most common problem while learning math is that students lack an understanding of the basic concepts. Think of math as building blocks, you need to first lay the foundation before moving forward. And if the foundation is not laid properly, the blocks will fall apart.

**What skills do elementary teachers need? ›**

**Skills**

- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something. ...
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively. ...
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

**What does it take to be a good elementary teacher? ›**

Some qualities of a good teacher include **skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience**. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

### What do you learn in math for elementary teachers? ›

Professional organizations and state standards concur that elementary teachers need a firm understanding of **numbers and operations, algebraic thinking, geometry and measurement, data analysis and probability, and mathematics-specific pedagogy**.

**How do you hook students into a math lesson? ›**

**Because of this, teachers need to implement techniques into their lesson plans to engage students and encourage them in learning math.**

- Connect math to life. Take the opportunity to show your students how they will use math outside the classroom. ...
- Make math fun. ...
- Utilize video and audio. ...
- Working with computers. ...
- Math mentors.

**What order should math be taught? ›**

...

**The typical order of math classes in high school is:**

- Algebra 1.
- Geometry.
- Algebra 2/Trigonometry.
- Pre-Calculus.
- Calculus.

**How do you keep students engaged in a lesson? ›**

**10 Ways to Keep Students Engaged in 2022**

- Start with a warm-up.
- See smartphones and tech as tools.
- Regularly test students.
- Use self-paced work.
- Brainstorming.
- Arrange group discussions.
- Run reflections.
- Make use of “dead time”

**Why is learning math so hard? ›**

Math is a very abstract subject. For students, learning usually happens best when they can relate it to real life. **As math becomes more advanced and challenging, that can be difficult to do**. As a result, many students find themselves needing to work harder and practice longer to understand more abstract math concepts.

**How can teachers improve maths in primary schools? ›**

**Encourage children to make connections between math they know and new concepts**. Ask questions guiding children to make their discoveries about mathematical concepts. Have the children predict the answer based on what they know, then have them work out the problem to find out if they were right.

**Why do learners perform poor in math? ›**

learners' inferior performance in mathematics is influenced by their **negative attitudes towards the subject that emanate from societal views that it is a difficult subject** (Khatoon & Mahmood, 2010; Makhubele & Luneta, 2014). learners might not be able to develop comprehensive understanding of the subject material.

**What is the most stressful part of teaching? ›**

**At any given time, teachers experience most, if not all, of the following stressors:**

- Receiving poor preparation for educating in training institutions.
- Dealing with difficult school administrators.
- Feeling unsafe in the school environment.
- Long hours.
- Low pay.
- Lack of resources.
- Class size —teacher to student ratio.

**How stressful is being an elementary school teacher? ›**

What is the Job Like? Elementary school teachers **can experience a high level of stress**. However, this is largely dependent on the working conditions, size of the class and experience. Veteran educators are able to establish a routine since they usually have prior lesson plans to fall back on.

**Is it hard being an elementary school teacher? ›**

Every teacher is impactful, especially those that work with children early in their educational paths. **Becoming an elementary school teacher is hard work but can be very rewarding**. Deciding if your personality, education and career aspirations are a fit for the job is important to consider before diving into the field.

### What is the hardest question for teachers? ›

**We've spoken to our teachers to put together a list of some difficult questions they've had and how to answer them.**

- Tell me about yourself. ...
- Can you tell me about a time you've failed? ...
- If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?

**Why teaching is the hardest job? ›**

**It requires a lot of dedication**

Compared to other professions that also require training and education, the stress that teachers go through each day can be significantly greater. Sometimes, they even have to spend their own money on school supplies. They don't really go on vacation during summers.

**What are 3 hard skills a teacher may possess? ›**

**Hard skills needed to be a teacher**

- Administrative skills.
- Classroom management systems.
- Database handling.
- Google Suite.
- Language skills.
- Microsoft Office.
- Social media.
- Spreadsheet creation and management.

**What teacher has taught the longest? ›**

**Medarda de Jesus Leon de Uzcategui** (born 8 June 1899), alias La Maestra Chucha, taught in Caracas, Venezuela for 87 years from 1911 to 1998.

**Why do new teachers quit? ›**

Teachers often cite **working conditions, such as the support of their principals and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues**, as the top reason for leaving. More than 1 in 4 teachers who leave say they do so to pursue other career opportunities.

**Does teaching get easier over time? ›**

It can. But it takes time, patience, and reflection. I know how bleak your first year teaching can feel. My goal in this post is to let you know that **it does indeed get better over time**.

**What type of person is good at math? ›**

Mathematicians are investigative and conventional

They also tend to be conventional, meaning that they are usually detail-oriented and organized, and like working in a structured environment. If you are one or both of these archetypes, you may be well suited to be a mathematician.

**What are the three things that a teacher must keep in mind when teaching mathematics? ›**

Three kinds of knowledge are crucial for teaching school mathematics: **knowledge of mathematics, knowledge of students, and knowledge of instructional practices**.

**Is teaching math hard? ›**

We can tell students that **math is very, very hard**. It's the truth. The techniques of algebra, geometry and calculus were hard to create, and they're hard to learn. But saying so forthrightly doesn't come naturally to a lot of teachers — or to commenters on education.

**What should be taught first in math? ›**

**8 Important First Grade Math Concepts**

- Count and write numbers from 1 to 100.
- Count by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s.
- Count backward.
- Count onward from any number.
- Count backward from any number.

### What are 3 things a successful math student does? ›

**Tips for Success as a Mathematics Student**

- Attend class regularly and pay close attention.
- Review notes the same day after class and make note of things you do not understand so you can clarify them during the next class.
- Make time to study math every day. ...
- Do not wait until a test or quiz to study.

**Is math a skill or talent? ›**

**It's a skill**, but one which some people find easier to learn than other. I suppose you could say that those people were more "talented", but in my opinion they don't have natural ability, they just have to work less hard to get more ability. As for how to start learning, it depends what level you have already.

**Does being good at math mean you're smart? ›**

The process of building math skills is entirely dependent on how logically you can derive information from the data provided. So, **if a person is good at math, he can be presumed safely to be a person with logical intelligence**, as per Gartner's study on types of intelligence.

**How do you master basic math skills? ›**

**There are four main ways you can improve your basic math skills:**

- Use workbooks. Math workbooks provide sample math problems to solve and are a great way to practice your basic math skills. ...
- Take a class. ...
- Ask for help. ...
- Practice.

**What are the 5 methods of teaching mathematics? ›**

Teaching methods of mathematics include **lecture, inductive, deductive, heuristic or discovery, analytic, synthetic, problem solving, laboratory and project methods**. Teachers may adopt any method according to the specific unit of syllabus, available resources and number of students in a class.

**What makes a great elementary math teacher? ›**

Good math teachers **show their students why the material they're learning matters and how it can be useful in actual situations**. Effective math teachers seize opportunities to get students out of the classroom to connect their learning to the real world in real-time.

**What is the new way of teaching math? ›**

Common Core Math

“The new way of teaching math **focuses on building students' conceptual understanding so that they understand the 'why' of math, and what the underlying concepts are about the procedures they are learning**,” she wrote in an email.

**What are math teaching strategies? ›**

**Top 9 math strategies for engaging lessons**

- Explicit instruction. You can't always jump straight into the fun. ...
- Conceptual understanding. ...
- Using concepts in Math vocabulary. ...
- Cooperative learning strategies. ...
- Meaningful and frequent homework. ...
- Puzzle pieces math instruction. ...
- Verbalize math problems. ...
- Reflection time.

**What tools do math teachers use? ›**

Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include **pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software**.

**What skills do elementary teachers need? ›**

**Skills**

- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something. ...
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively. ...
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

### What does it take to be a good elementary teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include **skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience**. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

**What is the order that math is taught? ›**

The typical order of math classes in high school is:

**Algebra 1**. **Geometry**. **Algebra 2/Trigonometry**. **Pre-Calculus**.

**What are the three things in mind that the teacher must keep in every math lesson explain? ›**

Three kinds of knowledge are crucial for teaching school mathematics: **knowledge of mathematics, knowledge of students, and knowledge of instructional practices**.

**What are the two main goals of math teaching? ›**

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK The twin goals of Mathematics in the basic education levels, K to 10 are **Critical Thinking and Problem Solving**.

**How do you engage students in a math class? ›**

**5 Tips to Help Get Students Engaged in High School Math**

- Relate to the real world. Most students do not believe that they will use what they are learning in high school math ever again. ...
- Give students choices. ...
- Use props. ...
- Find problems with more than one answer. ...
- Make students feel safe.