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November 23, 2022

There are countless ways (no pun intended) to help students experience math as something interesting and useful instead of boring and irrelevant. And it doesn’t always require elaborate planning. You can use what you already know to create Mathbuster Moments “on the fly” to bust through students’ dislike or fear of math. How? By watching for ways to bring fun math experiences into whatever’s happening in your program right now. Here are some ideas:

  • Student Interest Survey: Students are interested in music. Let them pick a favorite song, have them search for the score (musical notation) online, and teach the relationship between the song’s rhythm and quarter notes, half notes, and so on.
  • Student Choice: If you present a “problem of the day” or a math project, provide options and let students choose.
  • Movement: Have student teams use various units of measure (e.g., feet, yards, meters, steps, pencils) to describe the length of a wall or fence line. Challenge them to invent a new measure and explain its pros and cons.

Here’s an example that involves number lines, a concept that students learn and apply to different situations in math classes (and everyday life), beginning as early as third grade.

Crash course on number lines: A “real number” is any number that can be plotted on a number line. It can be a whole number or a fraction, and either positive or negative (or zero). Every real number can be associated with its own point on the number line. Here’s what a number line looks like:


What you already know: You use number lines every day, but you might not call them that. Examples are rulers, tape measures, some bathroom scales, thermometers, barometers, and measuring cups. Many measuring tools use the “number line” concept, especially if they don’t have a digital display. Number lines don’t have to be horizontal. For example, the number line on a measuring cup is vertical — and the measurement marks show only the positive numbers, not the negative numbers. The bottom of the cup is the “zero” on this number line.

What you can do: Explain the concept of “number lines” the next time you use a measuring device during an activity, like:

  • A measuring cup when you’re cooking
  • A ruler during an art project
  • A thermometer to see if it’s warm enough to sprout seeds in your classroom window
    Note: The negative numbers are visible on a thermometer (to indicate “below zero”), but not on a measuring cup.

Make it relevant: If a student says, “Our family’s going on a road trip,” blow their minds with this travel trivia:

  • Watch for the green mile markers the next time you travel an interstate. They show the number of miles from where the interstate route enters the state you’re traveling in.
  • The counting always starts at the state line in the south (for north-south routes like I‑95) and in the west (for east-west routes like I-90). So if you cross a state line, the point where you enter a new state is like the zero on a number line. The mile marker numbers get larger as you travel east or north.
  • Each interstate exit is numbered according to the nearest mile marker.
  • The interstates that run east and west are even numbers, and most end in zero, from I‑10 in the south to I-90 in the north. The interstates that run north to south are odd numbers, and most end in 5, from I-5 in the west to I-95 in the east.

You can probably think of other math skills and concepts you know about and can share with students, like comparison shopping, estimating how far you’ll go if you take 10 big steps, measuring the dimensions of a room, and recognizing patterns in art and nature. Download the Y4Y Mathbusters Handbook for more ideas. Then challenge yourself to create a Mathbuster Moment this week. You might just surprise yourself!

November 23, 2022

Math is often considered the most universal language on the planet. Nearly as universal (or so it may seem) is the fear of math. Trust us — Y4Y gets it! That’s why we’re proud to introduce our newest course, Math Without Fear, designed to put educators and students alike at ease if they experience math anxiety. After all, math is essential to so many professions — and dreams!

Math Anxiety: The Silent Villain

Think back to the last time you did a math assignment or took a math test. Did you take one look at the first problem and notice your heart started beating faster? Perhaps your palms became sweaty, your stomach suddenly felt uneasy, or your mind went blank. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s likely that you’ve experienced math anxiety. Math anxiety in children and adults is a very real and serious issue, and it can inhibit success in a multitude of areas. With this in mind, we’re overjoyed to dedicate an entire Y4Y course to overcoming math anxiety, along with tools to bust math myths and fears — for yourself, your peers, and students!

The Mathbuster MUSTs 

There are many tools you can use to take charge and put math anxiety in its place, from deep breathing to debunking myths like “mistakes mean you’re not good at math” and “boys are better at this than girls” and “being anxious about math means I don’t have math ability.” MUST is an acronym for the four main tools mathbusters use to fight math anxiety and nurture a can-do attitude:

  • M is for the messages students get about math and their ability to learn it.
  • U is for understanding math concepts and how thoughts and emotions affect learning.
  • S is for skills that help you learn and use math — and manage anxiety, if it’s an issue.
  • T is for thrills because students need positive experiences to help them discover the magic and satisfaction of math in a way that’s meaningful to them.

It Starts With Awareness

Believe it or not, awareness of math anxiety within yourself and your students is one of the most valuable strategies “mathbusters” can have in their tool kit! You can use the Y4Y Math Anxiety Self-Assessment/Autobiography tool to gauge your own level of math anxiety before inviting students to do the same. Research indicates math anxiety is contagious, so if you have it yourself, you can pass it along to your students without even knowing it. If you do have it, don’t despair! The Y4Y Math Without Fear tools will help you take a deep breath and discover that doing math is not only possible — it can even be enjoyable!

Plant the Seed — and Watch It Grow!

One of the most empowering aspects of overcoming math anxiety is fostering growth within your students. There are ways to boost students’ confidence through enrichment activities, homework help, and tutoring. Helping students realize the many ways they already use math in their everyday lives can make it seem less intimidating. Fun experiences in your relaxed program environment can develop students’ conceptual understanding (“know-why”) to complement the math procedures (“know-how”) they learn in school. It isn’t surprising that a good deal of math anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown, so learning ways to demystify math will put you and your students on a rosier “math path.”

Let Us Help You Open Those Doors

Math is integral to understanding so many real-world concepts. For too long, metaphorical doors have been deadbolted due to math anxiety. The good news? With the strategies in Y4Y’s Math Without Fear course and supplemental tools, you and your staff have the power to pick that lock, throw those doors wide open, and lead students to a world of opportunities.

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