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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Top 10 Ways to Motivate Students to Learn Math

The beginning of the school year is time for fun, getting-to-know-you type activities. I have several ideas in this blog post, click HERE. Students are always willing to share their favorite subjects, such as recess, P.E., art, etc. They are also willing to share their least favorite which is usually math - unfortunately! It was actually always my favorite. Math is important. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Development Psychology revealed that math skills at kindergarten is a stronger predictor of later school achievement than reading skills or the ability to pay attention.

So how do we motivate students to learn math?

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"The different branches of Arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision." --The Mock Turtle, from Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll 


Top 10 Ways to Help Students LOVE Math


1. MODEL the LOVE.

Students are smart and PERCEPTIVE. They can sense, and many times voice, which content areas are their teacher's favorites. Show excitement in math - it is contagious!

2. Make it REAL!

When students see a purpose for learning, interest goes way up. My students were always most motivated by using the Sunday advertisements (print or online). We used addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percents, units, ratios and more every week by shopping through ads. In addition, encourage to share each week how math has impacted their daily lives.

Money and Shopping Math Lesson for Kids

3. SHOW it.

Use manipulatives (no matter what their age) and drawings to SHOW how math problems work! SHOW what the division of fractions really is. SHOW how to determine the perimeter by walking around the school. SHOW, SHOW, SHOW!

Click here to show students how to compare fractions.



4. Play GAMES.

Research shows that movement in the classroom increases achievement. Students CAN move and learn at the same time - many times BETTER.

Here are some free task cards to get you started:

5. Build on their SCHEMA. 

What experiences have the students had in the past? What are their areas of interest? Use these as examples in word problems. I once had a student with autism who loved Sponge Bob. Appropriate or not, this was HIGH interest! I actually watched some of the show each morning, so I could reference it to my student. Once time on Sponge Bob, it was National Balloon Day, so I took him a balloon! LOL We did math problems about the cost of balloons, distribution (division) and probability of colors. I have also been known to watch WWE (wrestling entertainment) just so I could reference it the next day. How does this entertainment industry work. How do the wrestlers in income? How much? How about advertisers? What are their costs? Etc. Yes, if you get creative you can TIE anything to math. Think about vacations, sports, art, music, etc. They will all work!

Here is a video that shows a teacher making these connections.

6. Provide parents with SUPPORT.

Many times the students are mimicking their parents' attitudes or fears about math. Let's face it, some of the methods today are quite different than years ago. Give the parents needed information. Ensure that homework is for extra practice and not new learning. Communicate with parents that homework is not their responsibility. Help is always available for students the next day who are having trouble understanding.


Let students engage in math...TEACH it.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

8. Allow them to experience SUCCESS.

Restructure learning so that students have maximum opportunity for success. As educators, we are always engaging in higher learning for license renewal. Think how motivated you would be if you were constantly not understanding the content and receive poor marks. How long would YOU continue?

Response to Intervention: A Tiered Approach to Instructing All Students

9. Assess math ANXIETY.

Yes, this is real. Mention the word "math" to some people, and monitor their heart rate. The thought of math can bring upon real physiological reactions. Teach students relaxation skills and help them feel prepared. Scaffold lessons and utilize anchor charts.


Acknowledge achievements and milestones. Everyone likes a pat on the back!

What is your favorite subject? How will you instill of love of math in your students?


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Shelly Anton is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to ** This means there are Amazon affiliate links in these blog posts. This does not mean you pay a dime more when you purchase a product through the link. It just means I am trying to save you valuable teacher time by making it easier for you to find great resources for your students, and I earn a few cents for my research and time. Thank you for all you do for kids!