1st Edition

How to Teach Maths Understanding Learners' Needs

By Steve Chinn Copyright 2021
    164 Pages 93 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    164 Pages 93 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How to Teach Maths challenges everything you thought you knew about how maths is taught in classrooms. Award-winning author Steve Chinn casts a critical eye over many of the long-established methods and beliefs of maths teaching. Drawing from decades of classroom experience and research, he shows how mathematics teaching across the whole ability range can be radically improved by learning from the successful methods and principles used for the bottom quartile of achievers: the outliers. Chinn guides readers through re-adjusting the presentation of maths to learners, considering learners’ needs first, and explains the importance of securing early learning to create a conceptual foundation for later success.

    This highly accessible book uses clear diagrams and examples to support maths teachers through many critical issues, including the following:

    • The context of maths education today
    • Topics that cause students the most difficulty
    • Effective communication in the mathematics classroom
    • Addressing maths anxiety

    The perfect resource for maths teachers at all levels, this book is especially useful for those wanting to teach the foundations of mathematics in a developmental way to learners of all ages and abilities. It has the potential to change the way maths is taught forever.


    Chapter 1 Where we are with maths education

    Chapter 2 Key identifiers of future and current maths difficulties

    Chapter 3 The core curriculum for arithmetic

    Chapter 4 The developmental nature of maths

    Chapter 5 Topics which cause the most difficulty

    Chapter 6 Learner characteristics and key skills

    Chapter 7 Meta-cognition

    Chapter 8 Linking facts and concepts

    Chapter 9 The role of language, vocabulary and symbols: Communication and perspectives on communication

    Chapter 10 The inconsistencies of maths and their impact on learning

    Chapter 11 How to use materials and visual images

    Chapter 12 Two visual methods

    Chapter 13 Anxiety and withdrawal

    Chapter 14 Assessment and diagnosis of mathematical difficulties

    Chapter 15 Classroom management

    Chapter 16 Bringing it all together

    Appendix 1 What an 11-year-old is expected to know

    Appendix 2 Books and resources


    Steve Chinn is a Visiting Professor at the University of Derby. He is the author of The Trouble with Maths and More Trouble with Maths and the editor of The Routledge International Handbook of Dyscalculia and Mathematical Learning Difficulties. He has lectured and provided teacher training in over 30 countries. He founded, and ran for two decades, an award-winning school for learners with specific learning difficulties.

    "This book is a must-have for any teacher training programme and maths staff room. Drawing upon Steve's vast background from research, training and the classroom, this book will make both new and experienced teachers reflect upon their own practice. What I particularly admire about Steve is that he doesn't prescribe what we should do, but offers us a critical yet friendly eye into what he has seen over many decades. This book raises the bar in terms of books that educate teachers about how to teach maths." - Bobby Seagull, school maths teacher, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers and BBC presenter for the Monkman & Seagull Genius Guides

    "A book by Steve Chinn is welcomed and a real pleasure to read but it also makes us feel uneasy when there is still so much to do. His wealth of experience relating to maths in schools cannot be surpassed globally. His insight and perspectives in this book make it a 'go to' book, I believe this is not only for teachers of maths (and parents) but also for any educator who want to gain a deeper understanding of how we need to take a learner's perspectives. While it is focused on maths, we can also learn about the emotions that are evoked when it is harder for learners to engage in the subject. This is a reflective book honed from extensive experience and practice but it also remains a really practical book." - Professor Amanda Kirby

    "In his latest book Steve Chinn is reflecting upon his extensive experience of teaching mathematics in the classroom and provides a fresh view on how to support learners that are left behind by the current system. He is taking what he has learnt from teaching mathematics to pupils with learning difficulties and distills it into a seasoned vision of how to teach mathematics to all learners. This book is highly readable with many examples and illustrations from his teaching practice. Chapters cover a wide range of important areas of teaching mathematics ranging from an overview of mathematical topics that cause the most difficulties, mathematics anxiety and other learner characteristics that might affect learning to a captivating chapter on the use of materials and visual images. The book is thought-provoking and provides a good overview of the obstacles a successful learner has to overcome." - Dr Silke Goebel, Associate Professor, University of York, UK

    "In his book, Steve Chinn uses his vast experience to strip back maths learning and teaching. He focuses on some fundamental questions relating to how numbers are considered and how this can inform teaching practices. A variety of insightful, practical teaching strategies are provided, and a series of anecdotes are used to bring these to life. The book fosters an inclusive approach to maths learning and teaching. In particular, consideration is given to ways in which learners may approach maths, emphasising the need to tailor presentation and communication to effectively support the development of conceptual understanding. Moreover, the book crosses boundaries and considers how emotional and cognitive barriers may impede maths learning. A critical and common-sense approach is taken when discussing assessment of maths learning difficulties. The book is written in the author’s typical accessible style and should appeal to any audience interested in supporting maths learners, especially those who struggle." - Dr Thomas Hunt, Associate Professor in Psychology, University of Derby, UK

    "How to Teach Maths is a stimulating and accessible book, presenting a learner-centred approach to mathematics teaching. The book sets out the highly ambitious aim to introduce methods that work for all students, regardless of their ability levels or disability status. It covers a range of topics that are of great relevance to everyday classroom practice, from the concepts students struggle with the most to how visual aids can support understanding. The book also introduces the concepts of metacognition, mathematics learning difficulties and mathematics anxiety, and their relevance to teaching practice. Full of memorable examples, useful tips and entertaining anecdotes, this thoroughly researched, passionately argued, insightful and original book will be an extremely valuable resource to anybody interested in mathematics teaching and related research." - Dr. Kinga Morsanyi, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Mathematical Cognition, Loughborough University, UK

    "Steve Chinn is a remarkable man. His insight into the ways that children think and understand maths is extraordinary. Many children have difficulties with maths; they can develop anxieties, put up barriers or just believe they can’t do. Often these problems can become deep-seated and may even stem from the way the subject has been approached and taught, with misconceptions being seeded in early foundations. There are pressures on  teachers to push on through topics: teach with expediencies, teach rules, teach towards tests. Problems are compounded. Anxieties grow. Teachers may be frustrated with pupils’ difficulties in a topic. Why don’t they get it? The problem may be much lower down, way back, say, to the simplest understanding of number, the meaning of a fraction or the concept of division. Steve Chinn understands the psychology of maths for the developing child’s brain like none other. The approaches he has developed are so well thought out. They carefully knit together into a jigsaw of interrelated topics to kindle real depth of understanding, switching on light-bulbs and lifting the clouds. How to Teach Maths: a bold title. Sit up; sit straight; listen! We might learn something." - Patrick Davis. A national examiner, Head of maths, and teacher with 32 years' experience of teaching maths to 8 to 13 year-olds

    "This is a fascinating book by an author who always produces excellent reads. I have read Steve Chinn’s works since The Trouble with Maths and have recommended them to teachers, parents and colleagues – I wish I knew a few education ministers to whom I could recommend them as well. Steve Chinn’s books, and How to Teach Maths is no exception, have the wonderful style of being knowledgeable and readable so that we can all follow the ideas and strategies presented. As with previous publications, there are some great ideas/strategies in this book, but presented within the context of a general curriculum and a perspective on the development of mathematics ability. The general ethos that if you can teach someone who is struggling with maths, you can teach everyone, is very apt – and let’s face it, who doesn’t struggle with at least some aspects of mathematics. Steve Chinn can teach us all, and in an enjoyable and accessible way. A lovely book!" - John Everatt, PhD, is a Professor of Education in the College of Education, Health and Human Development at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

    "In this thoroughly engaging book, Chinn elegantly combines his decades of professional experience teaching students maths with what we know from research to provide an invaluable resource for maths educators" - Professor Daniel Ansari, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience & Learning, Department of Psychology & Faculty of Education Brain and Mind Institute, Western University

    "Steve Chinn not only has passion and talent for teaching maths, but he is also an excellent communicator and has decades of experience in teaching the subject. The book, written in easy going conversational language, is packed with practical advice on teaching maths and also introduces the reader to the psychology of maths learning. The content is focused on the UK context, considers the National Curriculum throughout, and equips the reader with many excellent ideas about teaching difficult parts of the curriculum. The broad overview of the psychology of learning maths enables the reader to better understand key learner characteristics. This is especially important when considering emotional factors behind maths learning such as maths anxiety. An excellent practical contribution to the literature." - Dénes Szűcs, Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK

    "This book provides the perspective that it is vital for teachers to design student-centered learning experiences that build on what students already know rather than frustrating them with what they are not able to do. With learning experiences like these, students will view themselves as able learners of mathematics." - Edward C. Nolan, Teachers College Record