"Who was your favorite math teacher?" Hopefully, you do have an answer to that question. The more important question is "What made that person special?" The list of qualities "special teachers" possess is generally quite long and all of those qualities help make them successful. But what qualities make mathematics teachers successful? Regardless of grade or subject...

Successful math teachers have the ability to:

1. Establish a good rapport with both the students and the parents. These instructors know that often students are somewhat afraid of mathematics and the parents sometimes have negative feelings about math from their own memories of school. For the school year to get off to a good start, these fears need to be addressed quickly; and these instructors are able to do this skillfully.

2. Convey a "you are capable of learning this" attitude. Very young children enter school not knowing what math is. Older students start each year fearful that this class will be the one they can't do. Students fear failure. The successful math teacher is able to keep students focused on success. They encourage, they reinforce effort, they reinforce student persistence, they make themselves available for those students needing extra help, and they work with parents as needed.

3. Explain concepts in different ways. (Multi-directional explanations.) We probably have all known someone who had a math teacher who seemed to only be able to explain a concept one way. When asked a question, the same answer was repeated. This is not good enough. Different learners need different explanations. The successful math teacher can explain concepts from several different approaches.

4. Keep lessons short, successful, interesting, and applicable, with plenty of processing time. These teachers are well-educated about and use the best research-based teaching techniques. They also adapt these techniques to take advantage of their own personal strengths.

5. Be good at task analysis. In mathematics, this may be the most important ability. All math teachers have at some time had the experience of presenting a topic to a class expecting to see recognition on each student face. Instead, those faces show only blank stares. The teacher stares back wondering what just went wrong. This is where task analysis comes in. The successful math instructor must very quickly consider what topic was just presented, what skills the students must already process in order to understand the new topic, and then assess what skill(s) is/are obviously missing. These missing skills must then be addressed before the new topic will be understood.

The field of education would be so much better off if these skills could be taught quickly in a college education class, and we can and do tell our new mathematics teachers that these are all necessary skills; but we all know there is a huge difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it. These skills take a very long time to develop. Some people are never good at task analysis. Skilled mathematics teachers are literally worth their weight in gold. We need to honor them. And maybe even pay them what they are worth!

Shirley Slick, "The Slick Tips Lady," is a retired high school math teacher and tutor with degrees in Mathematics and Psychology and additional training in brain-based learning/teaching. Her goals: (1) to help parents help their children with math, (2) to help eliminate the horrendous Algebra failure rate, and (3) to inform the general public about problematic issues related to the field of education. For your free copy of "10 Slick Tips for Improving Your Child's Study Habits.

"Who was your favorite math teacher?" Hopefully, you do have an answer to that question. The more important question is "What made that person special?" The list of qualities "special teachers" possess is generally quite long and all of those qualities help make them successful. But what qualities make mathematics teachers successful? Regardless of grade or subject...

Successful math teachers have the ability to:

1. Establish a good rapport with both the students and the parents. These instructors know that often students are somewhat afraid of mathematics and the parents sometimes have negative feelings about math from their own memories of school. For the school year to get off to a good start, these fears need to be addressed quickly; and these instructors are able to do this skillfully.

2. Convey a "you are capable of learning this" attitude. Very young children enter school not knowing what math is. Older students start each year fearful that this class will be the one they can't do. Students fear failure. The successful math teacher is able to keep students focused on success. They encourage, they reinforce effort, they reinforce student persistence, they make themselves available for those students needing extra help, and they work with parents as needed.

3. Explain concepts in different ways. (Multi-directional explanations.) We probably have all known someone who had a math teacher who seemed to only be able to explain a concept one way. When asked a question, the same answer was repeated. This is not good enough. Different learners need different explanations. The successful math teacher can explain concepts from several different approaches.

4. Keep lessons short, successful, interesting, and applicable, with plenty of processing time. These teachers are well-educated about and use the best research-based teaching techniques. They also adapt these techniques to take advantage of their own personal strengths.

5. Be good at task analysis. In mathematics, this may be the most important ability. All math teachers have at some time had the experience of presenting a topic to a class expecting to see recognition on each student face. Instead, those faces show only blank stares. The teacher stares back wondering what just went wrong. This is where task analysis comes in. The successful math instructor must very quickly consider what topic was just presented, what skills the students must already process in order to understand the new topic, and then assess what skill(s) is/are obviously missing. These missing skills must then be addressed before the new topic will be understood.

The field of education would be so much better off if these skills could be taught quickly in a college education class, and we can and do tell our new mathematics teachers that these are all necessary skills; but we all know there is a huge difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it. These skills take a very long time to develop. Some people are never good at task analysis. Skilled mathematics teachers are literally worth their weight in gold. We need to honor them. And maybe even pay them what they are worth!

Shirley Slick, "The Slick Tips Lady," is a retired high school math teacher and tutor with degrees in Mathematics and Psychology and additional training in brain-based learning/teaching. Her goals: (1) to help parents help their children with math, (2) to help eliminate the horrendous Algebra failure rate, and (3) to inform the general public about problematic issues related to the field of education. For your free copy of "10 Slick Tips for Improving Your Child's Study Habits.

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