Teaching Math to Reluctant Mathletes

Posted by Shmoop on 1/18/19 7:00 AM

"When am I ever gonna use this?"

Math teachers around the world are all too familiar with that question. And it's especially tough when you're trying to drill math concepts into the brains of kids who are sure they're going to be pet sitters or deejays or screenwriters or other professions that don't require mad math skills.

teach math to reluctant mathletes

Don't sweat it. We're here with a few tips to help you bring those kids to Mathland. 

6 Easy Ways to Teach Math to Reluctant Mathletes

1.  Relate the concepts to books they love.

This one's easy—and kind of hilarious. Never again will students wonder what mathematical negations have to do with Edward and Bella. Relating the concepts to students' favorite books is a great way to get their attention and connect. 

2. Ease them in with word problems.

Word problems are sneaky suckers. They trick students into thinking it's more about reading than math, and then—ka-blam!—students are doing complex math concepts before they realize it. Create your own word problems to make them more relatable to your students. Shmoop has a lot of fun with our questions if you care for some inspiration or simply use ours. 

3. Use videos to explain concepts.

Students learn in different ways and at different speeds. Video is a great way to engage with your students in a different way and can get them to think about a concept with a new perspective. Being able to rewind and playback is a great benefit as well. We've got thousands of videos to get you started. 

4. Get hands-on with the material.

What better way to explain scale factor than by having students actually go out and make, say, a giant tube of toothpaste? Math doesn't have to always be paper and calculators. 

5. Make it interdisciplinary.

Team up with your school's history teacher to have students calculate the probability that the next president will be over 6 feet tall or that voter registration will increase in any given year. Collaboration with other teachers on relevant topics can help students get more out of both classes. 

6. Use Shmoop's Math Common Core Teaching Guides.

Like all these ideas, but not sure where to start? Shmoop's Common Core-based Math Teaching Guides will arm you with assignments and handouts that'll make teaching math positively alge-breezy. Inside each guide, you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time.


"When am I ever going to use this?" is a challenging question all teachers would like to avoid hearing. By giving the student options and making math concepts more relatable and relevant it makes students more engaged. A win-win for everyone, especially for teachers that get asked that question.

How are you trying to teach math reluctant mathletes? Share your stories with Shmoop. 

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