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How pupils can learn math in Junior High

04 May 2021

Sandra Chen

Junior High math teacher



Math is a scientific language, a powerful tool, and a common foundation; it is an important science subject, a crucial technology and an advanced culture.

—— Li Daqian



As pupils advance to Junior High, the learning environment and the content of learning change significantly. As such, the difficulty and complexity of mathematics increases as well. If previous pupils do not grasp previous concepts, they may encounter problems as they advance through grades. This article focuses on how Junior High pupils can learn maths at their current stage. 



Self-directed learning


Self-directed learning can mean several things, such as:

  • Taking responsibility for one's own learning  
  • Wanting to learn rather than being compelled to
  • Choosing the most suitable study methods
  • Having one's own ideas on how to solve problems


Contrary to what the term implies, self-directed learning does not mean letting your children learn on their own. Effective self-directed learning requires support from the school, parents and even fellow pupils. Teachers devise mathematical activities to encourage pupils to explore mathematical phenomena and find applications for maths in their real lives. This is also something that parents can help their children do outside the classroom.


One possible way to do this is to appoint the child as a financial consultant for the family's financial plan. An exercise like this can clearly demonstrate real-world applications for important mathematical concepts. By the time pupils reach Junior High, their peers begin to wield greater influence in their thinking. For example, during Maths Week, pupils played the board game Proof. Despite their different mathematical abilities, they all actively participated and enjoyed themselves, helping one another when they encountered challenges.


Children should be encouraged to interact with their fellow pupils and learn that it is okay to ask them for help when they do not know how to solve a problem. If your children are proficient at maths, you can encourage them to help others as well. This presents the opportunity for one student to learn and the other to review.




Metacognitive ability


Learning mathematics in Junior High requires pupils to have certain cognitive and metacognitive skills. Cognitive ability refers to how they understand mathematics; the ability to learn the subject. Metacognitive ability refers to how well pupils understand their own cognition. It the practice of learning how to learn.


For example, the ability to answer questions on a test demonstrates cognitive ability. But the ability to devise and rethink problem-solving strategies indicates strong metacognitive abilities. It is therefore important to not only teach children how to solve problems but how think about getting better at solving problems.



How to help children learn?


The first step is to clarify objectives. We usually begin a new lesson telling pupils what the lesson's objectives are. This small step makes pupils more aware of their cognitive demands and helps them understand the knowledge structure.


Thus, if you want to assign your children math exercises, instead of just giving them piles of work books, tell them what type of exercises they are going to do, what goals they need to achieve and what knowledge they should acquire through these exercises. You can even involve your child in the goal-setting process. As a result, they will develop a sense of ownership of their learning.


The next step is self-monitoring. When children learn something new, ask them to describe the new concepts in their own words. When they encounter a bottleneck in solving a problem, have them retrace their steps, analyse their way of thinking and adjust accordingly. Self-monitoring helps pupils correct their learning behaviours and use apply flexible learning strategies.


The last step is guided reflection. The content of these reflections can be their cognitive characteristics, specific ideas, learning tasks, plans and results, problem-solving strategies, etc. By asking pupils to reflect on mistakes, we ask them to grasp the main issues, review, evaluate and summarise learning activities in depth. This not only enhances their awareness of self-monitoring, but also enables them to identify the strengths and weaknesses in their learning.


Developing good long-term habits


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is why developing good habits early on is so important. For instance, it is generally good practice to bookend class with five minutes of preview and review. Pupils should do homework carefully and deliberately, being sure to correct any mistakes in a timely fashion.


Habits do not form instantly. Experts suggest that repetition over 21 days will form a habit and 90 days of repetition will form a stable habit. Parents can play an integral in helping their children develop good habits.



Math ability is not just isolated to school exams and university applications. Years of mathematical study will have a profound effect on your children when they enter society. It provides a rational, organised and systematic way of thinking. It enables them to identify complex situations and apply reason and logic to solve a variety of problems. Mathematical thinking makes us more efficient in our lives and work.


Math is not just a subject. It is an attitude towards science and the ability to approach life scientifically. Its importance extends well beyond the walls of the classroom.