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How to be the Effective Online Math Teacher You Need to be!

Here’s a resource to become an effective online math teacher. Plus, discover how to get a bonus Google Slides Template for distance learning.

I remember the day my class received its own Chromebook cart. 24 brand spanking new Chromebook computers! One for each student – Now I was officially in a 1:1 classroom! I could use the Chromebooks all day long! But I made so many mistakes during the first year. It was all new territory for me.

How to be the Effective Online Math Teacher You Need To be!

A Virtual Classroom is Different from the Real One

As a 1:1 classroom teacher, I was in the classroom with my students. I could see in real-time how the students interacted with Google Classroom, EdPuzzle, Google Slides and a myriad of other online tools.

It was easier to see and correct the mistakes, troubleshoot the tech problems and answer student questions because I was there. The Chromebooks supported my in-person lessons and what I taught.

But now we find ourselves in new territory again!

Teachers need training to be an effective online math teacher.

I can’t go over to a student with a hand raised who asked for help. Forget about calling a small group to a back table for extra help. Instead, I have to figure out what’s the coolest virtual background to use for Zoom!

Consequently, we have been asked to be an online math teacher or online reading teacher or online content teacher! What came naturally to us in the classroom now has to be adapted to a distance learning world.

New Ways to Teach as an Online Math Teacher

Is teaching online like teaching live in the classroom? We know the answer to that is – no, it’s not the same! As newly drafted distance learning teachers, we now have to learn a whole new system to

  • deliver instruction through an online platform
  • interact with students at a distance
  • provide feedback (graded or non-graded) in a virtual world.
  • build community in a cyber world
  • maintain relationships

I’m sure you have had to do this as well with the current school closures. So when it comes to teaching math, the $64,000 question is…what describes an effective online math teacher?

As a Math Coach for my district, I get asked many questions about how to teach math. But, if you had asked me the $64,000 question two months ago, I would have said, “I have no idea! Let me get back to you on that one!”

Will you use Zoom or Google Hangouts as an online math teacher?

But here we are in new territory. Teachers need an answer NOW.

So my answer is: “What do the experts suggest? What do the experts say about how to teach as an online math teacher?”

Why do I defer to the experts? Because, like millions of teachers like you and me, I have ABSOLUTELY no experience teaching an online math lesson! But it doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to do it.

Let me show you how I learned to put together an online math lesson.

BONUS: Read on to find out how to get a copy of the template for the Google Slides!

A Great Resource to Transition to an Online Math Teacher

Recently, the California Teachers Association put out some webinars to help teachers during this crisis. One of those webinars was presented by Nicole Piper. Her video, Virtual Best Practices is amazing! She is truly an expert on how to teach online.

I believe her guide to a Virtual Lesson Plan is spot on. After I watched her webinar, I felt I had a framework and better understood how to teach a lesson online.

So I took her virtual lesson plan and used it to plan an online math lesson. Except – I tweaked it. I made one change which I believe is critical for your success as an online math teacher.

What are the Components of an Online Lesson?

Nicole has developed a guide to plan a virtual lesson which can be used with ANY content, ANY grade level, on ANY platform. An online lesson should have the following components

  • Bellwork
  • Norms and Rules
  • Connection or sharing Time
  • a Learning Target
  • a Warm-up
  • Lesson Time
  • an Exit Ticket

Check out her Google Site for an in-depth look at each of these steps to design an online or virtual lesson.

Tweak the Components to Teach Math Online

I have tweaked her design to teach an online math lesson. In the component Lesson Time, she explains how to do the I Do, We Do, You Do gradual release of responsibility in a virtual lesson.

But for a math lesson (even an online math lesson), it should be turned around! It should flow from You Do to We Do to I Do.

Productive Struggle is the essence of of problem solving.

Why? As a result, when we start a lesson with I Do, you eliminate opportunities for productive struggle. For this reason, students should be given an opportunity to solve a problem FIRST rather than be told how to solve it.

Therefore, I took her lesson components to develop an online math lesson template which incorporates the use of

  • Zoom (or you can use a different platform)
  • Google Classroom
  • web browser (for online virtual manipulatives)
  • Zoom Annotation Tool
  • Google Slides
  • Google Docs or Google Forms

To teach an online math lesson, your students already should have some familiarity with a web browser, Google Classroom, and Google Apps. Also, if you use other platforms such as Microsoft Teams, this framework will still apply.

An online math teacher uses Google Apps with students.

If your students are not familiar with Zoom or some other online meeting platform, bring your students up to speed with online tutorials. Zoom has tutorials for both teachers and students. Search YouTube for video tutorials.

How does the Lesson Work?

With the help of her framework, I planned a lesson to teach students in grades 3, 4 and 5 how to compare fractions. I used Google Slides as my presentation platform. I incorporated the use of virtual manipulatives, the Zoom annotation tool, an online game, and a Google Docs exit ticket.

BONUS: Read on to find out how to get a copy of the template for the Google Slides!

Here’s a look at each component as presented in the Google Slides Template. Please note the Google Slides template has a simple theme with no clip art. Once you have the template, you can change the theme, edit the text, add clip art, images and more. But Nicole Piper recommends to keep the slides simple and distraction-free.

Are you ready to be an online math teacher!

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Welcome Slide

Welcome Message: While the teacher waits for all the students to log on, the teacher displays a welcome message and greets each student as they log on. This should take about 5 minutes. The Google Slide template has a video timer embedded. This should also include a few minutes to let students know what materials they might need for the lesson (paper, pencil, calculator, etc.)

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Bellwork Slide

Bellwork: Next, after the log on and welcome is complete, the teacher moves onto the Bellwork. This can be a riddle, a quick estimation activity, a Which One Doesn’t Belong activity, or even an algorithm practice. This should also take about 5 – 7 minutes.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Norms and Rules Slide

Norms and Rules: After the Bellwork, the teacher reviews the norms and rules the students will follow during the online lesson. Whether you’re an online math teacher or in a classroom, we know behavior expectations are important.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Let's Connect Slide

Share and Connect: Here’s a great way to continue to build relationships with your students. Share something about yourself (something, goofy, fun, mysterious, etc.). Alternately have students share something as well. You could have a question such as, Who’s having a birthday this week? Share only one question per lesson.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Learning Target Slide

Learning Target: Another important point is to present the learning objective as an “I can statement” or in some other kid-friendly language. This is also an opportunity to review and connect previous learning or present academic vocabulary. Here’s a slide in which you can use the annotation tool to define vocabulary or point out important aspects.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Notice and Wonder Slide

Lesson Time – YOU DO: Begin with a “What do you notice or What do you Wonder?” activity. This should be related to your learning objective. It can be an image, story problem or combination. Give students time to think. Students share what they wonder and notice. The teacher can scribe these with the annotation text tool. Have one or two follow up questions which engage students in problem-solving. Give time for students to solve, then share their strategies.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson We Do Slide

Lesson Time – WE DO/I DO: Use virtual manipulatives from Didax, ToyTheater or the Math Learning Center to work with students on the learning objective. For example, the teacher uses the virtual manipulative fraction strips to compare fractions. Then have students write inequalities. You can also use a virtual whiteboard (Zoom has one built-in as a feature) in combination with the virtual manipulatives.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Practice Slide

Lesson Time – Practice: Finally, it’s time for students to practice. One way is to find an online game for students to practice the skill or standard. allows you to search for games by Common Core Standard. allows you to search for games by skill, grade level, and common core standard. Alternatively, you can give an assignment which has a later due date which can be a Google Docs or Google Slides. Check out my article about 5 mistakes to avoid when setting up Google Classroom. I’ve added an embedded video timer (10 minutes) which can also be used with students.

Distance Learning Google Slide Template Online Lesson Wrap Up Slide

Exit Ticket/Wrap Up: Wrap up the lesson as students share what they’ve learned. This can be orally or with an assigned Exit Ticket. Keep it simple with one question which requires students to explain their reasoning. You can assign this as an offline exit ticket through Google Classroom if you use a Google Form or Google Docs.

Use Virtual Manipulatives

As an online math teacher, we need to learn how to use virtual manipulatives to teach math. I’ve created a short video of how I used the virtual manipulatives in this lesson. The virtual manipulatives have to be opened in a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

For this particular lesson, I used the fraction strips virtual manipulatives from (oops! I said toy factory in the video!). Unfortunately, you can not see the toolbar which is in Zoom. I used the Zoom annotation tool to draw on the web page I was screen sharing.

BONUS: Read on to find out how to get a copy of the template for the Google Slides!

The Google Slides Template

Do you feel more confident to become an effective online math teacher now? Once you have a copy of the Google Slides Zoom Math Lesson Template, you can go ahead and edit each slide with your information.

I’ve included in the Speaker Notes of each slide an explanation of what the slide contains and how it is used. Some even have links to resources you can also incorporate.

The PDF will have links to the Google Slides How to Compare Fractions template for grades 3 – 5. ALSO, it will include as an ADDED bonus:

  • A link to a Google Slides Template for TK & K – Counting to 20
  • A link to a Google Slides Template for grades 1 and 2 – Making a Ten to Add
  • and links to Nicole Piper’s webinar and Google Sites
  • links to PDF instructions for each of the Google Slides templates

Above all, with the help of these templates and instructions, I hope to help you navigate this new territory of distance learning!

Sign Up Below to get the Template

Receive a PDF document with the links to the Google Slides templates. Sign up below!

Do you need Ready Made Google Resources for Math?

For the past five years, I have developed Google Slide resources for math (and science and social studies!). I’ve used these resources with my students. I’ve used them for practice and projects. I call these resources Interactive Digital Notebooks. You can read my blog post which highlights all the features of these digital notebooks.

They’re exclusively made for Google Slides. Easy to use, you assign them through Google Classroom (or other learning platforms). Click on any of the images to see the preview and detailed descriptions.

Share your ideas for Distance Learning

Now that nearly every teacher is traveling this new territory with her students, what are some tips you can give to your colleagues for distance learning? Share your ideas in the comments!

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