Learning is most effective when it is both practical and relevant. Teachers and tutors can maximize their students’ real-world math abilities by creating experiences that mimic how math is used in real life. One of my favorite examples of a hands-on, concrete math practice activity is the Tollbooth Game. I still remember playing this Tollbooth Game decades ago when I was in middle school and can recall how effectively it made the concept of carrying out accurate mental math seem meaningful (shout out to Mr. Brennan!).
The tollbooth operator completes a set of transactions with customers focusing on accurate computations, speedy calculations, and maintaining composure.
As a social studies teacher in the Common Core era, my curricular responsibilities have gradually shifted away from historical material and more towards the realm of teaching strategies for reading and creating nonfiction text. More and more, teaching the skills required to engage with social studies content has usurped the push to memorize names, dates, locations, and stories.
When you think about it, this makes sense for our modern world. If you need to know the date of The Battle of Hastings or the architects who planned out the Parthenon, the internet can bring that information to you (often with just the sound of your voice). What the internet can’t as easily do is critically analyze its own information for the reader and weed out disinformation and nonsense.
A large part of education today is focused on helping students to navigate and responsibly digest the limitless plethora of information that is available. One way to do this is to focus on strengthening reading skills through the use of carefully selected current event materials. Putting reputable news sources in front of students is a way to build literacy skills while, at the same time promote the critical reading strategies required to become engaged, informed citizens. After all, how can we expect students to recognize reputable sources if they haven’t seen examples to build their schema from?