# 3 Great Strategies for Building Math Confidence and Community

As a teacher, I never want a student to feel like they simply couldn’t do math. That’s why building math confidence is so important.

From the kid who loves numbers to the kid who can’t even add double digits, I believe that everyone, even struggling students, deserves to **feel confident in math class**. Everyone deserves to feel like they are **part of a positive class community**.

Of course, my very first year of teaching math put this philosophy to the test. And boy, was I ever tested! Everything about that job pushed me to the limits of my teaching abilities… but I learned and grew so much as an educator. I wouldn’t change a thing. I even realized I needed to work on building math confidence in myself at times.

**The Challenge**

The school I walked into my first year served me a math class with all the struggling students: all the IEP kids, the unidentified kids, the kids who were repeating the class – you name it.

You can imagine just how little confidence those kids had, not only in themselves but in the system. It became my job to help in building math confidence one student at a time.

So I went to work **building relationships**, giving them that **well-deserved confidence boost**, and providing them **the time that they needed to succeed**.

Here’s how I work on building math confidence!

**Strategies for Building Math Confidence and Community**

### 1) **Start Class with Bell Ringers**

Starting my classes with Bell Ringers worked wonders for building math confidence. Sometimes the questions were done on paper; other times they were done on whiteboards. Regardless of how they were done, Bell Ringers served to boost the confidence in my kids.

**Firstly**, as soon as the kids came in, they knew exactly what to expect. It gave them confidence in routine – at the very least, they knew what was going on as soon as they walked into the room.

**Secondly**, I made sure the Bell Ringer activity was attainable and served as a review of the work we did the previous day. This also built confidence, as the students started math class feeling encouraged with the familiar work.

**Thirdly**, Bell Ringers allowed me the opportunity to walk around the room and either help fix simple mistakes, encourage students that they were indeed on the right track, or redirect those who were stuck. This also supported building math confidence for the students because they had the opportunity to feel successful right away.

As a big bonus, **they felt supported by me**. When I told them I would encourage them, this gave me the opportunity to walk the talk. And they appreciated it a lot.

Here are some Bell Ringers that I used with my students that they really enjoyed!

### 2) **Optimizing My Time: the 3-Part “I Do, We Do, You Do” Sequence**

Once we did the quick, routine Bell Ringer activity, I would then structure my lessons in a way that allowed me to optimize my time. I always taught the newest concepts using the 3-part “I Do, We Do, You Do” teaching sequence.

Through this structure, I was able to work with and support every single student during every single class building math confidence.

**I Do:**I demonstrated the new concept on the board for the whole class.**We Do:**I roamed around my table groups, listening in on student conversations, while they worked on the majority of our assigned problems in small groups or partners.**You Do:**I continued to roam around the room, checking in with kids as they worked independently for more practice.

I structured my lessons this way so that I could ensure that less than a third of my class time was spent with all eyes on my teaching, and students taught one another or worked independently for over two-thirds of the time. Talk about building math confidence, I love watching my students teach one another.

As a result, I also had the chance to differentiate both my instruction and practice work. I walked around and checked in with students 1-on-1. I went over more examples with my struggling students. For my high achievers, I took the opportunity to facilitate a deeper understanding.

I was CONSTANTLY on the move. It got tiring, and that meant my chair collected dust all year.

But at least I got my steps in every day, and the kids felt seen and supported. This 3-part teaching sequence helped me optimize my time. **Getting direct instruction and support from me assisted in building math confidence and trust, which inevitably built a community in our class.**

That’s got to count for something.

### 3) **Mandatory Math Talk**

Not everyone is going to agree with me on this one, but stay with me here.

One of the things I did in my room was that **I called on every student**. Yes. Every single one.

I didn’t just pick kids who had their hands up (actually I would purposely avoid them).** Everyone was expected to talk.** During the “I Do” part of the 3-part teaching sequence, I took that time to rotate through the class and called on everyone. If not that day, then at least over the course of a few days – everyone was expected to contribute.

Not only does this build accountability, but it also teaches our higher achievers the virtue of patience. They are not to dominate the class. Others deserve to learn in that space too. **Having kids hear everyone’s voice is the only way to really build community and continue working towards building math confidence for everyone.**

“But Sarah,” you may ask me, “what about the kids who are anxious and are scared they’ll get the answer wrong?”

I’m of the belief that **the more we do scary things, the easier it gets**. I brought that philosophy into my classroom and encouraged the students to face their fears. Even more importantly, I also enforced some pretty high expectations of how my students were to support each other in their learning so that everyone felt safe as they took risks.

I set up our class expectations this way right from the get go. As time went on, **I found that my students became more and more confident the more they shared their ideas**. And the more confident my students became, **the more of a community my class became**.

I have to admit: this is hard, but important work. If you’d like some more clarity on how to do this, please reach out to me, and let’s chat.

**Some Resources to Help You**

Building math confidence and creating a positive learning community is incredibly rewarding; yet, it’s really tough work. To make it a bit easier for you, here are some of the resources I used to facilitate these 3 strategies!

My task cards, my color-by-code practice sheets, and my scavenger hunts were all a hit with my kids – even the struggling students! Let’s get to building math confidence together. If you’re curious about how to use task cards in math class to facilitate student conversation, here’s my blog about Math Talk!

Curious to learn more about my process? Wondering about the kinds of questions I would ask the kids to get them to talk in class? Give me a shout here. I’d love to chat with you!