How to Create a Culture of Math Risk-Takers

How to Create a Culture of Math Risk-Takers I teach at an IB World school where we focus on certain Learner Profile Attributes. Basically, these are character traits we would like our students to embody. This month our school is focusing on the attribute of risk-taking. I explain this to my first graders as being willing to try something new even if there’s a chance of failure. When teaching math, it is especially important to encourage risk-taking because it deepens students’ understanding of a concept. Here is how you can encourage your students to be risk takers during math time.

Create a Safe Learning Environment

Students have to know it is OK with you if they get the wrong answer. Even better, students need to be willing to ask for help when they are having trouble. The class must accept that making mistakes is a part of the learning process. I set up this type of environment by doing two very simple things. First, I intentionally make mistakes when I am teaching a lesson. For example, at the beginning of the year I write numbers incorrectly on the Days in School chart.  The first few times the students giggle, but then we talk about how to respond and help someone who has made a mistake. They quickly learn how to give very clear directions on how to help me and they also learn to do it very respectfully. Second, I purposefully call on students who do not have the correct answer. I try to do this at least once a lesson. We then talk about how they arrived at that answer and encourage the other students to help them fix their mistakes. Giving equal attention to wrong answers as you do right answers will create an environment where students are willing to take risks.

How to Create a Culture of Math Risk-Takers

Encourage Students to Try Something More Challenging

Know what your students are capable of and always try to push them farther. You can do this by modeling how to make a problem more challenging:

  • Encourage students to create an addition problem using more than 2 addends.
  • In Number Corner, add a zero to the days in school. So instead of 48, have them write equations that equal 480.
  • Have students write their own story problem that matches an equation and share it with the class.
  • Have a student teach a short lesson.
  • Have a student invent a new Work Place to add to the others.

~ Written by Grade 1 Bridges Teacher Mandie Lorge