Why Sequence and Pacing are Important in Teaching Maths

Can you remember learning how to swim?  How were you taught? Did they just throw you into to water and tell you to go for it? Or were you taught how to control your breath underwater, float, the mechanics of moving your body through the water?  While it is possible to figure out how to swim using the “sink or swim” method, it is more likely you would be successful if you taught step by step. Sequence is important when learning anything new, especially maths.

At the beginning of a student’s math education, we focus on their learning of the fundamentals.  From numbers to counting, to addition and subtraction, we go in order. However as students’ progress through school, we place less emphasis on sequence. For instance, order of operations is essential to learning Algebra. However, we too often introduce the concept, then proceed full steam ahead before understanding if it has been mastered.  Learning things in this manner cause problem as lessons become more advanced.

Think of it like building a house.  If your foundation is shaky but you continue building, the house may eventually collapse.

The key to successful teaching in sequential order is understanding your student’s pace. While it may take them days to learn one topic, another may take weeks. If the student is taking longer to learn, it can be tempting to rush them. Don’t. It is better to take the time now and set them up for success later. One should not be compromised for the other. Sequential learning and pace go hand in hand.

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Tips for Teaching Sequence

  1. Ask your kids if they feel comfortable with the speed at which the math is being taught. Take additional time to focus on foundational concepts that they struggle with to help them master the material.
  2. Frequently review previously learned math skills with your children — if your children are learning basic multiplication, review addition with them to make sure they have mastered it.
  3. Pay attention if your children seem continually frustrated with learning math — frustration is often a sign that they have not mastered previous material and that is interfering with new learning. Learning math in sequence and at an individualized pace is absolutely crucial for success in learning.

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