In the past few decades, the national philosophy of education has changed a great deal. When I was growing up, people would look at any class curriculum as a sort of epic journey. Every lesson was a challenge that each student would be required to overcome. If you had trouble learning something because of the way the textbook explained it, you would basically be out of luck. There was always one way of doing things, so as a student you had to hope that it was your way.
Nowadays, fortunately, people recognize the wide variety of learning styles and learning difficulties, and have changed their approaches accordingly. Thinking about picking out activities for math for my third grade class this year really opened my eyes to how different (and I would say better) things are. Math activities for elementary school children used to be essentially the same as with any other grade. Things would be explained in short, to-the-point sentences without visual aids, and then the math lesson would be drilled into the student’s scull ad-nauseum. This was not a good approach for anyone. For the students who were able to quickly master arithmetic, the math activity drills were boring and tedious. For the students who didn’t understand the lessons, the drills did not help. In the end, no one won.
In the class that I teach, I try to mix up different kinds of activities for math as much as possible. Particularly with young learners, the more senses you can bring into the lesson, the better. For example, activities for math fractions lessons often consist of actually dividing things up. A paper pizza can be cut up into eight pieces to illustrate what an eight is, for example. The kids don’t just work with paper and pencil either. They get to color things in, move objects around, and try a number of other different approaches in order to figure out what works for them.
Of course, even the best activities for math do require some repetition. Very few kids (or adults for that matter) are going to fully grasp an idea the very first time they are shown how to do it, so they need to have enough practice. Even so, the teacher could keep in mind that, with mathematics activities as with anything else, the goal is to learn. Too little repetition and the children miss the lesson. Too much and they will become distracted and forget it.