I'm wondering if some of you could help me a little. I'm working on a major project for my Middle Years Maths Curriculum course and I'm looking into the reasons that middle schoolers (grade 5-8) start to lose interest in Maths, especially with the beginning of Algebra. For those of you teaching these grades, specifically teaching Maths, have you noticed this trend and how do you deal with it? What do you think are the underlying causes? I'm really looking for personal opinons of real people on the front lines - which, as a student teacher, is why I'm asking you guys! Thanks in advance!

I don't teach grade 5-8, so let's see what the community comes up with. If you don't mind, though, I'd love to eavesdrop.

feel free! actually when i complete the project, i'm putting my findings and some maths activities into a website for my prof to mark, so i could always share the url at the end

I only taught sixth grade math for one year, loved the subject matter, but hated the hormones so I requested a grade level change. Most of the sixth graders did not enjoy math according to the first day of school survey I gave them. I would like to think that some of them liked it more at the end of the year, but I wouldn't count on it. By that time, I didn't even consider giving a survey! I used a manipulatives based program and had lots of spiral review, but reading and understanding the problem, and deciding what strategy to use was the hardest part for them. I had many kids who were still counting on their fingers to add and subtract, and just absolutely guessed in multiplication and division. For the Texas sixth grade test, over sixty percent of the test is brand new material introduced for the first time in sixth grade. I think the sheer amount of material that is expected to be mastered in sixth grade is one reason kids didn't enjoy math. We had forty-five minutes a day to learn an enormous amount. There was hardly ever any time just to do enjoyable projects using what they knew since we were constantly covering something brand spanking new!

I find that the disinterest that many students from this age group (grade 7 and 8) manifest is strongly connected with lack of confidence, which is, by itself, a consequence of not having developed basic skills in Math. I can't count the times I've heard students saying "I don't like Math... I was never good in Math!". (I posted this on the Secundary Education thread)

I'd like to see this in General Education: seems to me there's a real issue here and that it's going to take coordination across all levels to begin to resolve it.

I find that the students no longer are provided with concrete materials to manipulate. Most students are not ABSTRACT mathematicians at that age. Most of the math begins to get foreign! Numbers and letters begin. Numbers have negative values etc... The lessons become LECTURE like and absorption is challenged.

Ok everyone, I know this is going to sound bad but hopefully I won't be chased out of here with burning sticks I lost interest in math about fifth grade. My fourth grade teacher gave us fun hands on projects, but no where near enough for us to be ready when we got to fifth. So, in fifth grade I was at the point where I would look at a problem and didn't have any idea where to begin. It has always been the only subject that I had any difficulty in, so for years (pretty much until my senior year of high school) I just skated through with group homework assignments and open note tests. It wasn't until I started taking college math classes on how to teach elementary math that I realized why I hated math so much. I liked being perfect, and if I couldn't be perfect I didn't want to try. Ok, so now I sound like I was a spoiled little kid...please don't hate me everyone

Danny'sNanny, that doesn't sound like a spoiled little kid to me at all. I'd bet that it got hard for you to ask for help then.

Mommaruthie, i do have to agree with you! we start out in the early grades teaching children math first concretely, then pictorially and finally symbolically but suddenly expect them at only 10 years old to be able to move fully into symbolic manipulation and leave the concrete and pictorial behind?? Danny's Nanny, i don't think this is a spoiled little kid. I think a lot of children feel as if they can't ask for assistance and that they should be able to do math perfectly right off. thanks for your posts everyone

I'd guess there will be more to say about this; math tends to be a contentious subject for a lot of elementary teachers.

At a workshop a few weeks ago we did an activity called "TV Time". We needed to write down on a piece of paper the name of any TV show that summed up our own elementary school math experience, then place it on a rating scale (happy face, neutral face, sad face). The sad and neutral faces outnumbered the happy ones by quite a bit, and the activity provoked some thought-provoking discussions. There were some great answers--Jeopardy, Survivor, Beat the Clock, ER, CSI, Bewitched, etc. Mine? Law and Order--math for me was memorizing rules and formulas.

I only got the standard math teaching in school and I liked it a lot. It wasn't until I got an awful college professor for statistics that I got frustrated. I think it comes down to number sense and how do we develop that in young kids.

It sometimes seems that it takes only one or two bad teachers to knock a kid off track in math... does anyone else have that sense? If so, is that a reflection on math itself or on math teaching, or what?

If you have a bad teacher one year, then you're missing out on a lot of really important stuff. Next year will just build on that, and you'll slip behind.

my research has shown that teacher attitudes toward maths can really affect student learning...so if as a teacher you don't like maths, even if you never say the words, that attitude can seep through your teaching and be communicated to your students... so the bottom line is, yes teachers can make a huge difference...either way!

lowrie, that was a big focus at my training...it all begins with the attitude; that's why we spent a great amount of time examining our attitude as learners of math and as teachers.

If it's because the kids in your charge have been being gorillas, you have my sympathy. I hope it's just that it was past your bedtime.

Is math unique in the power of the teacher's attitude, do you think? If not, what else do we (I mean the community of teachers and teacher educators, not just we here) need to look at?

I think that attitude does affect all that we teach, but perhaps it is more obvious in math because many of us either had less that positive experiences in math ourselves or because we don't feel comfortable teaching it. I know that I have to get more "pumped up" to teach some things (certain topics in Science for example) either because I don't enjoy the content very much or because I don't understand the material as well as I would like to and I don't want my bias to come through. For this same reason, I don't teach novels or even short stories that I don't like.

What do you think can be done? How can we help kids see how cool math is, rather than getting snarled up in their mistakes and dealing out?