Like language, it's important that the students hear the patterns as well as see any patterns before they write down the symbols. Multiplication is a great example of this idea. Long before students see a multiplication table or worksheet young students should be singing songs, using blocks and hearing the patterns that are associated with the various multiplication tables. Then when they are exposed to the symbols, they understand what they mean. They understand that three times three is written 3 x 3 and that it really is the same as nine. The equals sign and all the symbols are understood. If your children are playing with blocks they can see that nine is a square number and what that means. Nine really is square even though the symbol for nine has curves and a circle. 9. Look at it, it doesn't look very square, little kids and even some older kids can get caught up in the symbols instead of understanding the concepts and what the symbols represent.
Parents and teachers can use worksheets to reinforce math learning but they should be used sparingly to introduce new ideas, if at all. With manipulative based teaching we always start in the concrete with base ten blocks, then move to sketching then at last to the symbols. Since most worksheets are symbol based it's only natural that they should be used last not first. Concept based teaching techniques emphasize understanding the concepts long before students see the symbols. In fact, a lot of little kids can start getting complex math concepts well before they can write complex symbols.
Using math worksheets to introduce math concepts is literally teaching backwards. First Grade Math Worksheets should be introduced after quite a bit of playing has been done. That way the worksheet is just practice that allows you to see how well they understand the math concepts you are teaching. They can be used for drills but using drills at an early age has unintended consequences, you don't want to turn them off at an early age and excessive drills will do just that eventually. The worksheets should be easy to begin with and then become more challenging as the student's confidence builds. They should be thought of as practice instead of as tests or drills or something to be fretted over. Some students develop math anxiety at an young age and worse test anxiety.
If the child firmly grasps the concepts any math worksheet should be simple or at worst “challenging.” If children don't have the writing skills required you can actually do the writing for them. Be sure THEY tell you what to write, you are not doing it for them just writing the symbols. This is more for parents or home schoolers because teachers in school will find this impossible unless the number of children is very small and we all know they rarely are.
Often times it's a good idea to play with the concepts for several days and then give the worksheet on Thursday. If the students don't complete it they can take it home and you can finish it off on Friday. If you are homeschooling or just giving your child a head start, be sure you play for a couple of days at least before you get out a worksheet. With first graders you can often use the same or very similar worksheets every few months and it will be new again. This is normal it takes quite a few impressions to get information into the long term memory. Many teachers lament that after Summer Vacation or even Christmas or Spring Break their students don't remember most of what they have been taught. It's still “in there” and this is a great time to bring it out with a practice sheet they are already familiar with.
Worksheets are great for reinforcement, and great teaching tools when used properly.
Using the Making Change Worksheets.
FREE WORKSHEETS HERE at Crewton Ramone's House of Math. More free worksheets coming soon.