By Riley Scaddan at April 10 2019 16:55:36
To summarize: math worksheets don't teach, teachers teach _ Of course, there is a place for math worksheets. After some instruction has occurred, math worksheets can provide extended practice and support development in fluency, provided the teacher is engaged with students as they work. Teachers who are effective at grouping students can use math worksheets as a springboard for discussions, discovery, and communication.
Problems should use the Courier font. Why? Every Courier font character uses the same amount of space. A comma is the same width as the number 5. This means that all of the numbers line up perfectly for carrying during addition and bringing the zero down in division. Are the problems too close together? Make sure you can distinguish between the problem number and the actual problems. The problem numbers should be less obtrusive. Students with and without ADD and ADHD can become distracted by too many distractions!? Are there too many problems on the page? Some authors attempt to pack in the problems, leaving little room for students to show their work. The opposite can also be the case. Maybe there are not enough problems to accurately assess student knowledge.
If the materials do not specifically indicate "brain_based," determine if they are at least "brain_friendly." This would mean that you are looking for lots of color, material interesting to the child, many varied activities_especially involving movement, and using several of the senses. I saw one company whose worksheets included the instruction to "say the number out loud as you..." This is very good! Speaking out loud is very important for learning to occur. Ideally, all worksheets should include this instruction. If you can't find any that do, then you need to add that instruction yourself. NEVER use "skill and drill" worksheets. These are the worksheets just made up of columns of problems. There are better materials out there, so don't resort to skill and drill. The very worst problem of skill and drill worksheets is the greatly increased chance of a practiced mistake. The same problem will likely appear several times on the same sheet. A wrong answer once means a wrong answer several times; and a practiced mistake takes hundreds of correct repetitions to fix. This danger alone is important enough to never use any worksheet. I am quite serious about how difficult it is to repair a practiced mistake. Learning is hard enough. Re_learning is much more difficult.
Students can certainly benefit from practicing new skills and concepts on paper. From letters and numbers to report summary formats, worksheets can provide students with a framework for practice _ an avenue for synthesizing new information in their brains. Well designed worksheets can also give students a platform for expressing creative ideas and reaching towards higher levels of thinking. So what is the concern? There are three big concerns, actually. Our teacher "caution light" should start blinking if we are using lower_level_thinking worksheets (Example: "Check the box next to the correct answer."), if we are using too many worksheets or if we are using worksheets as classroom busy work.