As I’ve said in a previous post, this year I’m teaching two Year 7 Maths classes at my new school. Aside from teaching the mathematics, the biggest focus of my lessons so far is settling my students into my routines for the classroom and also helping them get organised.

Organisation is an important and key life skill and those that exhibit good organisation have better chances of success in life. In my classes I focus on not only everyday organisation of materials but also on the organisation of thoughts on the page.

So what can you do to assist your child in getting organised both for their maths classes and also with their mathematical working out?

1.    Organisation of Materials

The main materials your child will need for their maths class is a calculator, ruler, compass, protractor, pens, pencils, textbook and notebook or file. Make sure your child has a big enough pencil case to fit the first few of these items. Students with small pencil cases have to remember to bring their calculator, or bring their ruler, and it is much easier on them if they just need to remember to bring their pencil case with all the items already packed away.

2.    Organisation of Maths Notes, Working and Worksheets

Of my 43 Year 7 students, I would say that I have 39 or 40 who are well organised with their class work and I am still working on getting the last few organised. You can help your child at home by checking on how they’re progressing so far.

It’s important for study purposes that students can easily locate class notes, class worksheets and where they have completed their own working out. To begin with they need a good filing system. If students use a file, they should have either a dedicated Maths file or a dedicated section within the file for this subject. They’ll need ample file paper, and a plastic sleeve or two to file worksheets away. If students use a workbook, then they need one dedicated to maths and preferably a separate folder to store all their worksheets.

I have a few students with no system in place and they are already losing worksheets and cannot locate the work they completed yesterday. A bit of time spent on this at home will do wonders for their feeling of preparedness and their ability to trace through the content they have learnt when it comes time to revise for a test.

3.    Use of the Homework Diary

For many students, high school is their first introduction to time management and the use of a diary. As a teacher I spend the first few weeks making sure my younger students know what to write in their diary and I give them lots of reminders when homework is due and when assessments are scheduled.

It is worth your time to take a look at your child’s diary each night and see what homework they have to complete, when assessments are scheduled, and whether they are using their diary effectively.

4.    Class Notes

Most maths teachers will have their students take down a few notes and examples each lesson. These are both to teach students new concepts and also serve as a point of reference when it comes time to revise for a test.

Take a look at your child’s class notes each day and see what they’re learning and whether they’re taking down the notes effectively. Do they have a title? Are they easy to read? Do they seem clear and useful?

If your child can easily present to you each day what they have learned in maths and you can easily read through them and understand what they have learned, then your child is doing a great job at being organised. If they struggle to find where they wrote down their notes or you both can’t seem to make sense of what they have written down, then they might need some help organising their class notes.

5.    Class Work

I’m a bit of a hard task master, and the other day when I was teaching Order of Operations (BIMDAS) I made about a third of my class rub out their work and start again because they had not set out their working and thoughts clearly on paper, like I had asked them to do. There were quite a few students who were unhappy about this, but a week later the overall working out from all members of my class have improved.

In primary school students adopt this idea of “rough working out” which they complete on scrap paper, and then they write the answer neatly on a worksheet. This is something maths teachers need to help students unlearn straight away. As maths becomes more complex, the process and the mathematical thinking is far more important than the final result. As such, the presentation of mathematical thought and knowledge is the most important skill for students to learn.

I spend a lot of my class time checking that students are presenting their ideas correctly and thoroughly, with neat presentation. To support your child it is useful to check their working out and watch them work through a few homework questions to gauge whether they are organising their thoughts on the page. Ensure they write which question they are working on, set out their calculations clearly and neatly and present an answer to the problem they are solving. The sooner your child learns that it’s the presentation of their ideas that are awarded the most marks in an assessment (and not just the answer) the better they will perform. We spend a lot of time in our practice test papers resource helping students understand where marks are allocated in tests to help them improve their test taking technique.

Students who exhibit good organisational skills, both in preparing for lessons and in the presentation of their work and thoughts, are better able to achieve their potential and progress mathematically. There’s a lot you can do to support them in developing these good habits.

Photo credit: Jared Schmidt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND