5 Engaging Ideas for Teaching Math with Video

Many students come to our classrooms with a negative view of math. Boring math lessons that don’t provide hands-on learning or active engagement only exacerbate that problem. As with any subject, it is important to engage your students with mathematical concepts in a variety of different ways. In previous posts, I’ve shared strategies for using building bricks and playing cards to provide fun, hands-on practice. Today I wanted to share strategies for teaching math with video.

Using Video to Teach Math teaching math with video
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How to incorporate video into any math topic without a ton of time or stress.

Whether you’re teaching in person or virtually, video is such a great tool for keeping math engaging and bringing in some real world examples. I’ve tried to include some ideas that cover different math topics you’ll teach throughout the year so that you can pick and choose which are the best fit for you and your learners.

Today I wanted to share how you can use video to engage your learners and foster mathematical thinking. 

1. Include familiar teachers in your lessons.

One of the best math lessons I’ve taught involved filming members of my school community. After selecting teachers and staff members that were student favorites, I asked them to solve some math problems on camera using some division methods I knew were challenging for my students. I also asked some of them to make mistakes on purpose. 

COMPUTATION WITH VIDEO teaching math with video
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Seeing some of their favorite teachers and our principal and assistant principal on camera working on the same math they were doing immediately captured their attention. At the end of each clip, I posed the question, true or false?

Before they could vote, I asked the children to solve the question for themselves. 

Not surprisingly, they were eager to figure out whether each staff member had done the work correctly. In fact, this lesson was so helpful for engaging students that they begged me to film some more…and even gave me a list of staff members they hoped would participate. 

Because I didn’t want to be continuously bothering other staff members to help me with activities for students in my class, in later lessons I incorporated hand puppets and filmed myself in a variety of different costumes. 

While it was somewhat time-intensive, I found it worth it when it came to more difficult strategies. 

2.       Let students become the teacher by creating math videos.

We’re all familiar with the quote below from William Glasser. One way to get students actively teaching without using every bit of time you’ve planned for learning is to have them film themselves.

Instagram teaching math with video

It’s easy for students to go through the motions when doing calculations. Sometimes they don’t even understand why they are doing each step, which means they are lacking the conceptual understanding of the math they’re completing. 

Therefore, instructional videos are a fantastic way of improving students’ skills and making sure they’ve truly got the strategy down to the point that they can teach it to others. 

students creating a math video
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Here are a few fun ways to make this happen:

1) Pretend that aliens, who happen to understand English very well, have landed. 

2) Tell students they’re going to help you create videos for next year’s class.   

3) Put students in charge of creating a fun alternative to YouTube for teaching math.

Regardless of which option you select, you’ll follow these steps. 

  • Tell students their task is to teach them how to do a specific type of calculation, like adding fractions.
  • Give each student a problem (or two) to solve on camera and put them into pairs to practice explaining the steps.
  • When they’re ready, let them video their lesson. 
  • As a class, watch the videos and give feedback on students’ strategies and explanations.  Be sure to give your learners a model for how to give praise and constructive criticism. For example, I like the way you remembered to explain the importance of writing a zero – well done!

3. Change up the data collection process. 

While I personally feel like graphing makes a great beginning of year unit, many schools don’t incorporate it into their scope and sequence until spring. Even then, many of us are given lessons that follow the same pattern year after year using the same samples of students…their current classmates. 

Why not switch it up to make data collection more engaging? 


Your data and graphing unit can be a lot more exciting if you add clips from movies or animated shorts. Pick something that is age-appropriate and of interest to your class. For example, you might watch a clip from Zootopia and have students create a tally chart based on how many animals they saw (i.e., how many sloths working in the DMV).

After creating the tally chart, you could have students create different graphs to model their data and you could begin the process of building their analysis skills by asking a variety of different questions at various difficulty levels. Here are a few great examples using the scenario above: 

How many…

  • rats did you see in the clip? 
  • animals did we identify in all? 
  • fewer voles did you count than rats? 

You can even move up to more challenging math concepts. For example, you might ask,
What fraction (or percent) of the animals we observed were rats?

These analysis questions are one of the most important pieces of your unit, so be sure that you develop a variety of options to get students to look at the data in a number of different ways. 

4. Get creative with time. 

Before we dive in, please know that this one might require a little more digging to find just the right video clip so you definitely won’t want to leave that piece until the last minute. 

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the strategy.

teaching about time with video

For younger learners, you may find that film is a great way to introduce the process of sequencing morning, afternoon, and evening. You might use short clips from a familiar clip to help them sequence these. 

If we continue with our Zootopia example from above, you might consider showing the video of the DMV and discussing how long the duo spent there based on what they notice when they come out. 

You can also go a more traditional route and use video clips from YouTube to introduce important time concepts from the basics (like reading a clock) to more advanced topics (like calculating elapsed time). 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

5.       Build engagement when teaching geometry. 

Geometry concepts can be a little stale and can create a big challenge for your struggling learners and those who are learning English. There’s so much vocabulary that it can be hard to keep it all straight. 

Geometry Vocabulary wtih Video teaching math with video

This is why you want to make sure you’re offering students lots of different ways to practice using these terms. When you begin to transition from the hands-on models, a film can be a great option to keep the engagement high. 

Disney Pixar’s short film, Lifted, is a great example. While you’re watching, pause the film regularly, and ask questions such as:

  • What shape are the windows?
  • What about the individual panes?
  • What shape is the model of the house?
  • If you were to make that model, what would the net for that shape look like? What shapes are the faces?

This movie is great for both 2D and 3D shapes! The possibilities really are endless, and there are also other concepts that you could introduce. For example, the arrangement of buttons on the console could be used to remind children of the term parallel

Teaching math with movie clips offers a fun way to boost engagement for all topics.

I hope that you have found this article useful and will leave with an idea or two to try. Regardless of how you decide to incorporate video into your math plans, I know you’ll find that your students are more engaged and even your reluctant learners get excited when it’s time for your math lessons. 

Whether you’re teaching place value to your third-grade class or pre-algebra skills in middle school, there are so many opportunities to bring video into the classroom in meaningful ways. I hope you’ll give it a try! 

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