Check these 9 items off the list to choose the best math videos for your middle school and high school students.
With the leaps and bounds educational technology has made in the last several years, there’s a glut of math video resources—but not all are good enough to use in your classroom.
During my time as a teacher, math videos were one tool I used to reach my diverse population of middle school students who required tiered support. Math instructional videos allowed me to scaffold instruction, extend classroom learning, and the best videos kept my students engaged and excited for more.
And to be honest, they relieved a lot of the stress that comes with teaching!
If you’re wondering how to find the best video resources for your classroom, here are the 9 most important things I learned to look for in high-quality math videos.
(But don’t stress too much if every video doesn’t check each box; while these guidelines will help you find the best math videos, there are many that are worth using even if they don’t meet all 9 criteria!)
1. Math Videos Must Be Accurate
It probably comes as no surprise, but when looking for math videos to supplement your middle or high school classroom instruction, accuracy is the name of the game.
Using math videos that accurately present concepts is like having a reliable GPS in your car. You wouldn't want to send your students down the wrong path, would you? That's why it's crucial to choose videos that show the correct steps, explain concepts accurately, and arrive at the right answers.
There’s nothing worse than quickly pulling up an unvetted math video, only to realize midway through that the information presented isn’t accurate—trust me, I know from experience!
Not only will vetting math videos for accuracy save your students time and frustration, but since math is a subject that builds, it will also help them construct a strong foundation of understanding they can rely on in the future.
2. Math Videos Should Be Clear
Accuracy alone isn't enough; high-quality math videos must also be clear and easy to understand. Straightforward videos are like a lighthouse in the fog—they help your students easily navigate the sometimes-tricky waters of math.
Clarity should be present in several aspects of your math videos:
Presenters should speak with clarity and use concise language. Don’t muddy the waters with too many extra words!
Ample wait time for students to process newly-presented concepts and think about their answers allows them to feel clear about what they’ve learned.
Visual aids should be easy to see and clearly illustrate the main idea or major concept.
A video that explains concepts clearly and concisely can make all the difference in your students' comprehension and retention of the material.
3. Math Videos Should Have Fun Visuals
Speaking of visual aids, not only should they be easy to see and illustrate the concept, but they should also be engaging and visually appealing. For example, we’ve heard from a few middle and high school students that they love MATHstream’s Tutorbot!
Engaging visual supports can help keep your students' attention and motivation levels high, especially if they’re linked to game-based celebrations or reward systems, like these in MATHstream.
Visual aids like diagrams, animations, and graphs make abstract concepts more concrete and relatable. They’re the perfect tool to help students connect the dots between different topics. Plus, visual supports can be a real game-changer for students struggling with traditional textbook-based learning.
4. Math Videos Must Keep Students Engaged
Let's face it, although math teachers love math—many students don’t. They may feel intimidated by the subject or have never had learning experiences apart from the traditional “sit and get” lecture. The best, high-quality math videos are the perfect tool to overcome these barriers, but only if they keep your students engaged and excited to learn.
When deciding whether or not a math video is interesting enough to keep your students entertained, one thing you should look for is a dynamic presenter like Howie Hua. He’s upbeat, witty, and engages students with real-life applications. With teachers like him, there are no dry or dull lessons!
And as mentioned above, math videos should have fun visual supports. No teen will want to watch a video of someone working out a problem on the board without props or some sort of real-life application—look for math videos that spice it up a little.
When engaged and having fun, your students are more likely to retain the information and understand major concepts. Plus, enjoyment and engagement can help build a positive attitude toward math, and that’s always something to celebrate!
5. Math Videos Should Be Brief
Another important hallmark of a high-quality math video is its length. Keep it short and sweet. Aim for ten minutes or less to maximize student engagement and retention and stop them from daydreaming about lunch.
Research shows that children’s attention span is about two to three minutes per year of age, but it’s no secret that longer videos can lead to boredom, fatigue, and a decrease in learning. Keeping math videos under ten minutes can help your students stay engaged, retain more information, and even have time for a quick brain break before moving on to the next topic.
Plus, shorter videos are more accessible to students with different needs that limit their attention spans, making math learning more inclusive and equitable.
6. Math Videos Must Teach Conceptual Understanding
Make sure to look for math videos that don’t rely on teaching concepts using tips, tricks, or shortcuts. Sure, shortcuts can save time in certain situations, but they can also be a crutch that prevents students from fully grasping the fundamental principles.
Math videos that prioritize conceptual understanding over quick fixes will help your students build a strong foundation of knowledge that will serve them well in the long run. It will also help them become more confident problem-solvers and critical thinkers and see the subject's true beauty and creativity.
And while finding a balance between math videos that aren’t too long but don’t rely on teaching shortcuts, tips, or tricks can be daunting—I promise those videos are out there! Check out these TED-Ed videos about proving the Pythagorean theorem and making sense of irrational numbers for some great examples.
7. Math Videos Need to Have Thoughtfully Chosen Worked Examples
When you’re on the hunt for high-quality math videos to supplement your Tier 1 classroom instruction, make sure to consider the types of example problems the videos provide.
Worked examples should be thoughtfully chosen, keeping these qualities in mind:
Each concept should include a wide range of worked examples, not just several that are prototypical. For instance, if students are watching a video about graphing quadratic equations, they should see worked examples with different minimums, maximums, and vertical shifts.
Worked examples should also show multiple problem-solving methods. This will help your students develop flexible thinking and a deeper understanding of the concept.
Math videos should explicitly highlight common mistakes. It's essential to address misconceptions head-on and state what not to do so that students can avoid the same pitfalls.
8. Math Videos Should Help You Collect Data
While free videos are great, they do come with their limitations. For example, I’ve never come across a free video resource that does the heavy lifting of data collection, like MATHstream does with its in-video formative assessments.
Ideally, you’re using math videos for re-engagement, to provide an additional cycle of learning, or for students who are ready for extension. Each scenario requires you to collect data to understand performance and make the next instructional decisions.
Programs that help you collect this data are definitely worth the investment, because not only are you saving time and making your job easier—you’re doing both of those things in a way that directly benefits your students!
9. Math Videos Should Help Your Students Self-Assess
Finally, when searching for high-quality math videos, ensure they’re presented on a platform like MATHstream that allows students to self-assess.
When students have the opportunity to evaluate their understanding of a concept, they become invested and can take ownership of their learning. If 16 years in the classroom taught me anything, it’s that students are more likely to persevere if they’ve had a hand in evaluating their progress, rather than me telling them what they know or don’t know and what minimum score they need to reach!
High-Quality Math Videos Are Within Reach
It may sound like a lot to evaluate every math video you use against these nine criteria, but it’s worth it to find videos that increase student confidence and help them achieve significant gains.
But don’t worry! If you want to make it easier to find high-quality math videos that will engage your students, accelerate their learning, and provide you with actionable data, check out MATHstream.
It’s the only adaptive, interactive math video streaming program where highly engaging teachers deliver targeted, skills-based instruction to students in a fun, motivating, game-based environment.
We can’t wait to see you there!
Before joining Carnegie Learning's marketing team in 2022, Karen spent 16 years teaching mathematics and social studies in Ohio classrooms. She has a passion for inclusive education and believes that all learners can be meaningfully included in academic settings from day one. As a former math and special education teacher, she is excited to provide educators with the latest in best-practices content so that they can set all students on the path to becoming confident "math people."Explore more related to this author
Math instructional videos allowed me to scaffold instruction, extend classroom learning, and the best videos kept my students engaged and excited for more.
Karen Sloan, Math and Special Education Teacher of 16 Years