Five Strategies for Building Confidence in the Middle School Math Classroom


A lack of confidence can be the most detrimental factor to a student's academic success. Here are five effective teaching strategies for building self-assurance and maintaining student engagement in the middle school mathematics classroom.

1. Scaffold your instruction

Students need to feel that they can achieve. The wonderful thing about teaching math is that most concepts can be broken down into smaller steps. When a student masters one step in a series, they feel a sense of accomplishment. This motivates them to move onto the next step in solving the problem. In addition, educators must also provide adequate practice with a specific skill. When young scholars have sufficient exposure to a concept, it builds familiarity that allows them to feel self-assured when solving a math problem. It is essential for teachers to scaffold their instruction so that students are not left feeling overwhelmed or confused.

2. Make math hands-on

An excellent strategy to engage a middle school math classroom is through games and hands-on manipulatives. Many middle school students learn kinesthetically and will best remember a skill if they experience it physically. Hands-on learning also has the benefit of creating an engaged classroom with a more relaxed atmosphere. This is an immediate solution when students feel discouraged and need to see success with math in the classroom.

3. Allow for make-up time

Middle school students are often overwhelmed by the amount of homework expected of them. When students rush through their work or fall behind, they begin to question their abilities. One way teachers can combat this is by allowing for additional time to make up assignments or fix errors. This allowance of additional time gives students a chance to locate resources, analyze mistakes, and problem-solve. Students feel accomplished when they get caught up with their work and confident when they make corrections.

4. Peer collaboration

Teachers often forget the importance of providing time for cooperative learning experiences. Group work is especially helpful in engaging middle school students because they appreciate having autonomy in the classroom. With peer collaboration, students get the opportunity to learn about group dynamics and their role as part of a group. This can give leaders a chance to build confidence by taking charge of their group, and it can give others a comfortable space to gain a sense of familiarity with a particular problem-solving strategy. Fostering collaboration in the classroom is one of the easiest and most effective strategies for building and maintaining confidence, which leads to academic success.

5. Recognize all problem-solving strategies

When students work with peers, they sometimes disagree about which problem-solving method is correct. Math is fascinating, because there is not always one right way to reach a solution. When teachers acknowledge and praise different approaches students take in problem-solving, they build students' confidence and foster acceptance of alternative strategies.

These teaching strategies are easy to implement and very effective in a middle school classroom. When students feel confident in their academic abilities, their potential is limitless. They will enter the classroom feeling engaged and motivated to learn, making the learning experience productive and enjoyable for all.


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