Marilyn Burns, the author of the article “Nine Ways to Catch Kids Up” realizes that a handful of students are at risk in each classroom. Burns came into this realization after talking with a student named Paul about multiplication. She discusses three issues that are essential to teaching mathematics. This includes helping students make the connections among mathematical ideas, to build the new information on the student’s previous learning foundation, and to accompany correct answers with an explanation.
In the article, Burns discusses nine strategies to help those students who lack the foundation of mathematical understanding on which to build new learning. The first strategy covered is to determine and scaffold the essential mathematics content. Teachers must decide what concepts and skills are important for students to learn and discard the material that is irrelevant. Teachers will then be able to organize, manage, and sequence the content for learning. The next strategy to consider is to pace the lessons carefully.
Teachers must be able to judge whether the students are grasping the content well enough to move on. Struggling students will need more time to grasp the new ideas and more time for practice. A third strategy is to build a routine of support. A routine will reinforce the concepts and skills the students need to master. The routine of support consist of four steps. The first step in the routine is that the teacher models. Step two is that the teacher models and the students respond.
The third step is think-pair-share where students think on their own, then students work with a partner, and then discuss the problem as a class. Step four is to work independently. Strategy four is to include student involvement. Getting students involved will help them to strengthen their understandings. Students can collect their ideas and then discuss them with a partner. A fifth strategy is to make connections explicit. Students need to realize and make connections with the mathematical ideas. Students may need help to build the new learning on what the already know.
Another strategy that Burns suggests is to encourage mental calculations. This will give students the opportunity to reason, foster number sense, and to find patterns.. Strategy number seven is to help students use written calculations to track thinking. Paper and pencils are tools to help students keep track of what they think. The eighth strategy is to provide students with practice. Students need to be given a great deal of practice that is directly connected to their current learning experiences.
The last strategy is to build in vocabulary instruction. Having students develop mathematical vocabulary can build upon their understanding of the concept. Marilyn Burns discusses essential strategies for students at risk in mathematics. For these at risk students, teachers must emphasize understanding, sense making, and skills to help them catch up. Burns talks about how it is important to scaffold the mathematical content when introducing concepts and skills and that it needs to be completed in a routine.