3 Things to Teach Your Students About How Their Brain Works

Are you ready to enjoy having more engaged students? Teach them these three things about how their brain works and they will feel more relaxed and be more willing to learn!

[clickToTweet tweet="Helping students to understand how their brain works, will reduce their frustration and anxiety." quote="Helping students to understand how their brain works, will reduce their frustration and anxiety."]

Lesson 1: Relearning is Easier

We've all been there: frustrated because our students don't remember something we just taught them. But here's the deal: relearning something is easier than learning it for the first time.

Let's say you teach Algebra 1. You become frustrated when your students don't remember how to add or subtract fractions. If you teach Geometry, you don't understand why they can't remember how to solve a basic equation or find a supplementary angle. You know they've been doing this since middle school!

What you can tell yourself and your students is that relearning it is easier.

Have you ever heard a song you haven't thought of in years, but as soon as you hear the intro music, you can just sing along? That phenomenon occurs because the path in your brain has already been created. You might not remember it right away, but as soon as you get that trigger, you do!

Another way to think about it is to picture walking down a path in the woods for the first time. You're moving sticks and cutting deep brush to forge the path. You're working hard! When you go to walk that path again after some time has passed, you'll still have to remove items from your path, but it won't be nearly as difficult as it was the first time.

Lesson 2: Sleep on It

The second thing I love to teach my students about their brain is the power of "sleeping on it."

Have you ever had a class period where the fire bell rings in the middle or you had to go to an assembly? Those interruptions mean you can't bring your class to a conclusion. Kids are frustrated as they leave and come in the next day saying,  “I didn't get it." It's a negative experience!

Teach your students that they can sleep on it. If they sleep on it, their brain builds those connections. When they build those connections, they retain information. So when they come in the next day, it will be easier to learn. There will be more understanding and the content will seem so much easier.

So when that fire drill goes off, you're rushing them all outside, and you don't get to finish your lesson, tell your students, "I know you're feeling a little confused, but you have an advantage over all my other classes. You get to sleep on this information and come back. Tomorrow it will feel so much easier!"

They love hearing that!

Lesson 3: Multitasking Is A Myth

Students need to hear -- over and over -- that multitasking is a myth. In fact, it is not even effective.

That's hard to tell a bunch of teachers, isn't it? Because we have to multitask. We have to deal with 30-plus personalities in our classroom, the phone ringing and the door, and the fire drill. There are times I hide, close the door, and get to work in an uninterrupted space because I need that.

Well, our kids need it, too.

They need to know that they can focus on one thing at a time. In fact, it's going to help them to understand and to retain the information if they're not being interrupted. When we ask them to put the cell phone away that they are hiding in their laps, they will be more apt to listen if they understand how their brain works. Asking to put the phone away isn't simply a method of control, it's a way to help them learn.

When we are interrupted, it takes 10-15 minutes to fully refocus. Multitasking robs you of your time.

A Recap of Concepts

Helping students understand how their brain works will reduce frustration!

1. Tell them relearning is easier.

Instead of saying, "You know you learned this last year, I know you can do it again," we can choose not to talk down to them. Instead, teach them that relearning is easier. They will feel more hopeful about the class.

2. Tell them to "sleep on it."

Tell them they can sleep on it! That way, when they are frustrated, they know it's going to be easier the next day. This understanding is going to help them to come in with a more positive attitude.

3. Tell them to focus on one thing at a time.

This isn't just going to help them in math class, it will help them in life. How many people do we know that are wasting their life away because they are distracted? We want to set our kids up not just for success in our classrooms, but for success in life. If we help understand how their brain works, we will get a lot of success.

3 Tips to Teaching Radical Functions

Radical Functions and Rational Exponents

[Here is the youtube link for those of you with blocked facebook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcosA0oJGes]

Do your students hate radical functions? If they do, follow these three tips to not only make learning them easier for your students but teaching them easier for you. Let’s jump right in!

Tip #1 - Radicals Are Simply Variables

I once had a student working very hard to understand Algebra though it wasn’t her strong suit. When we got to radicals, she admitted to me that she hadn’t paid much attention the year before and had no idea what radicals were.

I went through the process of teaching her how we use symbols for real numbers the way we use the pi symbol for 3.14. Once I explained it that way, she was able to grasp the fact that radicals stand for real numbers that are irrational and, therefore, difficult to write out.

Make sure your students have a firm grasp on the fact that these symbols stand for irrational numbers. If they miss this basic step, it will be difficult for them to move on to the next thing, something we must remember as teachers.

Tip #2 - Connecting to Previous Learning

I have said it before and I will say it again: make sure you always remind your students of something they already know when you are teaching them something new.

Your students should already understand variables, so remind them of variables as you begin to teach radical functions. When I do this, I stop for a moment and ask my students easy questions like, “What do you get if you multiply x by x?” They can tell me that it equals x squared. I ask, “What happens if you add x to x?” That’s an easy one; it’s 2x.

Now they can see that if they know how to work with variables, they can work with radicals.

Tip #3 - Review, Review, Review

Begin or end each math class by reviewing basic facts. Give a speed drill of the square root facts, progressing to the ones they inevitably forget.

My kids always forget the square root of 1 because we spend so much time reviewing the larger numbers. The truth is that you can’t expect your students to have success with more complicated topics if they can’t rattle off their square and cube roots without thought.

I use charts of exponent equations with my students at the beginning of class, and for my struggling learners or my ESL/ELL students, I have them keep the charts on their desk as I teach. Just reviewing these basic facts goes a long way toward the students retaining the information and being ready to tackle more difficult concepts.

I also do this is to get students off of the calculator, which can be very frustrating for a teacher. Beyond that, once we get to more complicated lessons, the calculators won't help anyway. This is why I recommend doing these types of drill charts in every class session.

If you aren’t on my email list, be sure to sign up as I share charts and helpful classroom worksheets..all free! Go here to sign up today!

Common Core State Standards

    • Change expressions using the rules of exponents (N.RN.2)
    • Explain how the definition of the meaning of rational exponents follows from extending the properties of integer exponents to those values (N.RN.1)
    • Use the properties of exponents to interpret expressions for exponential functions. (F.IF.8.b)
  • Write a function that describes a relationship between two quantities. (F.BF.1.a)

Common Core Assessment Examples

Get every assessment you need today.