Teaching math online…

     …is challenging! It’s hard to keep students engaged. It’s even harder to keep them on track with their independent work. How can you make sure they’re understanding the steps? Or not using their older sibling to answer test questions? How can you get them to engage when their screen is black and their mute button is on?
 
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do want to share what I tried, what worked, and what failed! I’m constantly learning.

WHERE I TEACH

In March of 2020, when the pandemic hit, I was directing and teaching a small start-up Montessori middle school program. When we got sent home to quarantine, the good news was that I only had 7 kids. The bad news was that, as a Montessori program, the education mostly relied on hands-on, in-person work and I was entirely in charge of creating the online experience.
 
Luckily, the students were flexible and kind, eager to engage, and willing to try new things. For the remainder of the year, I attempted to create online materials they could engage with, curricula that would help their independence, and most importantly a space for their social skills to continue to grow.
 
Part of this was taking my math curriculum and putting it in an online format. Since I also sell some of my materials online through Teachers Pay Teachers, I thought it would be a great crossover to start sharing this with other teachers. Win-win, right? Boy, was (is) it a lot of work.
 
At the beginning of the summer, on a whim, I also posted some classes through Outschool. As the country was scrambling to catch their kids up on things they missed during the pandemic, it felt great that I was able to help. It also felt great that I was able to set my schedule and give my four-year-old daughter the extra support she needed at home.
 
I experimented with lots of different formats for the class. I tried different ways to manage the class. I quickly learned the more advanced features of Zoom and Google Classroom (I’m still learning though!). So, on to the tips for teaching math online!

TIP #1 PREPPING THE CLASS

The number one tip for teaching math online is to have your entire setup ready to go before students even log in. I use a combination of Zoom for lessons and Google Classroom for assignments. This was true for my in-person class that went online last year and it’s also true for my Outschool classes this year.
 
Before the class begins, I create a class on Google Classroom with the name and time like the one below.
Google Classes
I add one topic for every unit I’ll be teaching for the entire year. Since I teach multi-age and multi-subject classes on Outschool (stay tuned for a separate article on how that works!), I load a few years worth of topics into the classroom. I might have one student starting at 6th-grade math and another halfway through Geometry. Here’s a section of one class that I knew most students were going to focus on Prealgebra.
I make sure that each document for each unit is organized in one location on my Google Drive. Since there are no registered students yet, I cannot create an assignment until I get students in.
 
I have a digital interactive journal for every unit I teach. If you’re interested in these, you can visit my shop on TPT–The Project Shoppe. I don’t have everything loaded, but I am working very hard to put them up regularly!
 
Finally, I send out an email inviting students to go ahead and register on Google Classroom using an instruction list like this. (Feel free to copy my list):
  • Log in using a student or parent Gmail account
  • Click the “Join” button on the top right of the screen
  • Use this Class Code to join : (insert your class code here)

TIP #2 FIRST DAY EXPECTATIONS

Hands using laptop with mathematical formulas. Online education concept
I personally also discuss math with each student. I ask them what grade or level of math they are in. I ask if they like math or generally despise it or just don’t care. If I have a younger student, I may have mom or dad join and we can go into a breakout room to talk about more details.
 In my classes, I can have students anywhere from 6th-grade math through Algebra II. I also only teach classes with a maximum of 6 students, so these types of discussions are easy to have the day-of. If you have a large class, and you only teach one subject, this probably isn’t necessary!
 
Finally, I create assignments and make sure that every student can see their first assignment. I assign a full unit at once. The first activity of each unit is always a warm-up type activity they should be able to do independently, so they have something to do while I help other students.
 

Click Here for Part 2: Tip #3, Tip #4, and Tip #5.