Interactive Math: How To Make Math More Interactive

ALI Staff | Published  February 17, 2023 | Updated May 15, 2024

Interactive math isn’t a new concept. The idea of engaging students in more active learning experiences to enhance their math understanding is a cornerstone of math instruction.

What has changed is the number of strategies available to teachers to reach more students.

Interactive math acknowledges student preferences and learning styles to create a more stimulating learning environment.

Making math more interactive fosters collaboration and connects students to real-world applications.


An image of students working together and discussing math work


What is interactive math?

Interactive math is a teaching method that engages students in math in a more hands-on way.

It’s active participation in math vs. passive participation and an exploration of math through dynamic means like games, manipulatives, and digital tools.

This approach encourages collaboration, problem-solving, and real-time feedback. 

Why is it important to engage students in math?

Engaging students in math supports a deeper understanding and retention of math concepts, especially in students with math anxiety.

It increases motivation and interest in math, especially when activities are student-led or based on real-world scenarios.

Interactive math lessons cater to diverse learning styles, too, allowing students to explore concepts in a visual, hands-on way.

The end goal is always a more enjoyable learning experience in the math classroom. Interactive math has the potential to cultivate a more positive attitude toward math and prepare students for the challenges of the next grade level.


7 Ways to Boost Student Engagement in Math

To boost student engagement in math, we’ve put together a list of research-backed strategies and interactive examples in math to draw students into new concepts and boost achievement.


Use Hands-On Activities

Math hands-on activities allow students to touch and feel math. Math manipulatives and visual supports help students understand abstract concepts more concretely.

This is the basis of the Concrete, Representational, Abstract (CRA) teaching model.

Making math hands-on helps students understand concepts through active participation and experimentation in the learning process.

It also enhances students’ ability to participate in inquiry-based learning and critical thinking tasks. Hands-on activities are quite versatile.

They can be assigned as stations after some scaffolding to understand how they work or within the whole group.

Examples of hands-on math include:

  • Building geometric shapes with blocks or other manipulatives.
  • Creating visual representations of math concepts, like bar graphs, pie charts, and line plots.
  • Measuring and comparing lengths, weights, and capacities.
  • Solving logic puzzles and games that manipulate math concepts in a new way.


Connect Math to Real-World Applications

Making real-world connections is an effective way to help students see the relevance of math in their daily lives.

This helps students answer that persistent “Why?” question around how math can be used in real life and why they’re learning the concepts in the first place.

You can integrate real-world applications into any math lesson. Examples of real-world math classroom activities include:

  • Activities about budgeting or calculating the cost of a home renovation project.
  • Recipe lessons that teach students about different units of measurement.
  • Using geometry to design a garden. This becomes even more powerful if that garden can become a reality and classroom project.
  • Calculating the distance to their favorite place.
  • Analyzing data as it’s used in sports statistics, population surveys, or even stock market changes if you’re working with older students.

As an extension activity, consider organizing field trips or inviting guest speakers into the classroom from professions that rely heavily on math.

This includes engineers, architects, and data analysts.


Let Students Play

Gamification is naturally engaging for most students. Math games are one of the most fun ways to learn math.

They can be used to reinforce basic numeracy skills and fact fluency and explore more advanced topics in a way that feels more fun.

Depending on the classroom, you can also encourage some low-stakes competition to get students even more engaged.

Implement a reward system where students earn points, badges, or virtual rewards for completing math tasks, reaching milestones, or demonstrating improvement based on their math goals.

Technology is helpful here, but math games include board games, card games, and whole-group activities like Math BINGO, scavenger hunts, and trivia.

Word walls and other visual supports can help students access math vocabulary that may be useful in interactive math.


Introduce More Peer Collaboration

A collaborative learning environment where students can work together on math problems and discuss strategies can reach students who have been feeling left out in the math classroom.

Students can even learn from each other's approaches as a form of student-led inquiry.

If possible, peer tutoring or group study sessions when more advanced students help peers who need it grasp challenging concepts can be a powerful math intervention.

It can even reinforce accelerated students’ own understanding in the process, further boosting engagement and math test scores as a result. 


Make Math Personal

The best answer to how to make math more engaging is to help students feel connected to math.

This goes beyond the real-world applications we’ve explored already. Students need to feel like their learning styles are considered and that there is an endgame to what they’re learning.

They should feel like they’re making progress.

One way to do this is through math interventions where students work through any concept challenges at their own pace.

This way, they can get to a point where they feel confident with concepts before moving on to the next one. Personalized learning platforms can be a helpful tool here.


Explore Interactive Learning Platforms

Platforms and adaptive curriculums that offer interactive self-paced lessons, quizzes, and embedded differentiation tools can make math highly engaging for students.

That instant feedback that comes with many platforms can feel rewarding and give students an idea of their progress.

Digital curriculums like STEMscopes Math and intervention tools like Math Nation combine technology with individualized resources for more engaged learning.

These evidenced-based supports don’t add to an educator’s plate but allow teachers to work toward standards and students’ math goals more effectively and efficiently. 


Create A Supportive Math Classroom

Math anxiety is such a big component of how engaged students will be in math and how safe they feel interacting with math. Create a safe space for learning that promotes a growth mindset.

Emphasize the importance of effort, perseverance, and learning from mistakes in mastering math skills rather than focusing on innate ability alone.

You may need to get creative in assessing the social-emotional components of math learning. Math journals and exit tickets where students can reflect on their short- and long-term progress can be important tools in that effort. From there, provide constructive feedback that highlights students’ progress and effort.

Every student has the potential to excel in math. Sometimes, it comes down to encouraging them enough that they view challenges as opportunities for growth. 




How to Support Teachers in Making Math More Engaging

Teachers are the most important piece in connecting students to math and creating opportunities for meaningful math interactions. That said, it doesn’t start with a mandate to make math interactive.

Teachers need support in the form of professional learning opportunities, technology, and classroom tools that will allow students to engage with math interactively. Teachers will need time to collaborate with other educators to share strategies and resources and curate lesson plans with engagement in mind.

Supporting teachers will empower them to inspire their students and help them develop a deeper appreciation for math. In the simplest terms, when students engage in the classroom, teaching becomes more fun.


Interactive math is fun for teachers AND students.

Making math more fun isn’t just about making math concepts less difficult to teach. It always comes back to engagement. Interactive math creates an environment where teachers and students connect with the material more deeply.

It’s exciting to think about math more creatively and engage with students about topics that matter to them. Interactive math can shape a whole new group of students who aren’t just proficient in basic math concepts.

They’re more engaged, enthusiastic learners in challenging, abstract ideas with real-world applications.



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