Many students and adults think that Math is difficult. This is a result of too many concepts being taught by telling and writing the rules and formulas. Students are then left to memorise these concepts without understanding them fully.

If possible, one way of introducing a difficult mathematical concept is to do a model of it. Students of all ages enjoy being creative. They will enjoy the learning process even more when they are actively involved in it. The younger the students are, the more important it is that they can touch, look at and test the properties of objects, thus strengthening their understanding of difficult mathematical concepts.

How many cubic meters are 2 cubic meters and 25 cubic decimeters?

How many adults know the right answer?

If you don’t, it could be that you didn’t understand it when you were being taught in school. This is a result of learning by memorising without understanding.

For example from one study book: “Decide which relationship you have to use. Write it down with the unit you want on the right hand side. Use the link between the units to work out whether to multiply or divide and by what. To change cm3 to mm3, multiply by 1000. To change mm3 to cm3, divide by 1000.”

Instead of looking at pictures of cube in textbooks, let students build the cube. How many faces, edges and vertices are in a cube? Third grade students need a model of a cube in their hands, so that they can see and count the edges. Most of the six grade students can tell the number of edges without seeing the model.

Start from unit conversion of a meter and a square meter. Ask students to build the area of one square meter on the floor with sticks or one-meter long ropes. Compare the area of one square decimeter to the square meter.

Question: How many square decimeters go into one square meter? (100)

Next, let them compare the volume of one cubic decimeter to the built cubic meter. How many cubic decimeters go into one cubic meter? (1,000)

If students have been taught the unit conversion rules traditionally, based on remembering the rules, the only thing they remember is that they have to move the comma right or left, often wondering to which direction. Without really understanding, they usually do it wrong.

Once the students have built a model of a cubic meter with sticks, they will be able to give the answer by reasoning and understanding.

It is also very good to make the connection between one cubic decimeter and one liter. If the teacher has a container of one liter and one cubic decimeter, it is good to pour the water from one container to another and show that they have the same volume.

Did you already get the answer to our question? How many cubic meters are 2 cubic meters and 25 cubic decimeters?

Answer: 2.025 cubic meters.

Maarit will be presenting at The Middle East Maths Teachers Conference on March 11th, 2017 in Dubai. For more information please visit www.middleeastmaths.com.

By Maarit Rossi

Mrs. Rossi is a Math teacher, principal and CEO of Paths to Math Ltd. She was one of the top 10 finalists in Global Teacher Prize 2016. She is one of the Top Teacher Bloggers in The Global Search for Education by C M Rubin. Twitter: @pathstomath & www.pathstomath.com