When I chose math as the subject I would teach, I mistakenly thought that I would be a great math teacher because I was a great math student. This was VERY flawed thinking as I would soon find out. After five years of teaching math, there are still several things I wish I had known before I started. T**oday, I am sharing three tips for a new math teacher.**

# 3 Tips for A NEW math teacher

# 1. FIGHT AGAINST “I don’t get it

This is still a battle I fight daily. The first thing I begin teaching my students to say is, “Mrs. Brack, will you clarify this part for me?” or even simply “I need help.” “**I don’t get it” suggests that you are passive in the understanding of a problem.**

In addition, many students will decide they do not get it before attempting the problem (or even reading the problem…grrr). In order to receive help from me in my classroom, students must follow these steps.

The short hand is “3 before me.” **It also incentivizes students to take quality notes, so the notes are actually useful during independent practice or group practice.** If a student’s hand is up signaling they have a question, then I will ask if they went through the entire flowchart. I will then ask their tablemates if that student has already reached out for help. #accountable

**I will do this for a couple of months before students internalize that I am not the answer key.**

# 2. Mistakes Are Not a Bad Thing

**Many students come into math with fixed mindsets and have decided based on their previous experiences that they will never be great at math (see: “I don’t get it”).**

Even super fluent students often stare at a problem for fear of messing up. Or they will look at a problem that I did not explicitly teach, and even with a toolbox full of tools, fear choosing the wrong tool. **Mistakes are how we learn in math. We must make mistakes, so we can learn from that mistake.**

For that reason, it is important that I make math mistakes in front of students (sometimes on purpose) so they can correct me, and I can say, “Mistakes are how we learn.” Lastly, that is why error analysis is such an important skill to teach students. **My 8th grade math teacher, Rene, says that an expert can explain the correct answer but can also explain the most common mistake people will make.**

# 3. Number Sense is a Priority

I have come to terms that not all students will have their multiplication facts memorized by the time they get to my class. In the beginning, this defeated me. How can they learn _________ when they don’t even know their multiplication facts? I thought that fluency was the cornerstone of math, so it became my primary focus.

It wasn’t until I taught 9th grade Algebra that I changed my mind. I watched as students with calculators repeatedly told me that 2 divided by 4 equals 2. They would show me their calculators where I would see 4 divided by 2 equals 2. **I realized that number sense was an infinitely more important skill to focus on because in a few years my students would have access to calculators.** Fluency would not be the skill needed to wield a calculator safely.

What have you unexpectedly learned teaching math? Do you have any tips for a new math teacher to share? You got this!

Teri Dunlap says

I love the flowchart as a visual. I have tried this in the past and find that I still have several “lazy” students that don’t want to contribute to a group. Do you have suggestions?

Annette McKee says

I believe you’ve hit the top issues with clarity.

Shamra Mays says

I love the graphic! What a great way to illustrate what students need to do. I especially love the Courage title.

Heather says

Love your website!! I am switching over to middle school math this year and you have been a temendous help!!! Thank you

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks so much, Heather! I am so glad to hear that you have found it helpful. 🙂

Kristina says

Hello! Thank you for your articles! I just read the one on Homework agenda! 🙂

I am intrigued by your comment regarding fact fluency vs. number sense. How did you work on building number sense in the upper grades? Our school does a school wide reading incentive program and we have a team that is looking into how we can build a math centered school wide initiative. We originally were going to build it around fact fluency, so now I’m wondering if we should think about basing it somehow around number sense. Any advice and/or activities you have would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Noelle Pickering says

Hi Kristina! I would suggest looking at Jo Boaler’s website. She talks a lot about it at the upper elementary level, possibly you could take some of the ideas and apply them to middle school.

Kristina says

Thank you! I appreciate your time!

Amanda says

Do you have an editable version of the flowchart that you are willing to share?

Noelle Pickering says

I don’t at this time, but it’s a great idea!

Katelyn says

I am a CPA turned 8th grade math teacher, and I’ve lived on your blog all summer as I approach my very first year. I’ve even read some more than once. You are so helpful and encouraging!! Thank you for all that you do 🙂

P.S. I’m trying to convince my husband that I “need” your bundle on TPT too! lol #butireallydo

Noelle Pickering says

I am so glad that you have found the blog helpful! I hope you have a great year!

Daniela Fougerat says

Excellent tips, Noelle! Thank you very much for sharing them with everyone. I loved your chart. It’s very clear.

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks so much! Glad you found it helpful!

Nadia says

I’m going in to my very first year of teaching (ever & math) at a YES Prep school! Just found your blog and am LOVING it.

Thank you!

Nadia

Noelle Pickering says

Hope you have a great first year!