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5 Ways to Develop Math-Motivated Students

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Somewhere right now, a student is struggling with math. But is their struggle productive or pointless? The answer depends on one thing: motivation. The fact is, it takes patience and perseverance to build any skill, such as phonological awareness for budding readers or math fluency for budding mathematicians. But when students are motivated to keep going, they're on a sure path to mastery--even in the middle of setbacks and failure. What Motivates Math Learning? It's a given that no two students are alike. Clearly, what motivates one may not work for another. Moreover, each student needs a variety of problem-solving skills. In math--as in life--there may be more than one "right" answer. Given the complexity of this process, what motivators are best?

5 Ways to Develop Math-Motivated Students 

Math can be an exciting and rewarding subject to learn, but it can also take patience and perseverance to become proficient in math--just as it does to gain phonological awareness for budding readers or math fluency.

Because of this, students often need motivation to stay dedicated to mastering mathematics. 

Every Student is Different

What motivates one child may not work for another, as no two students are alike.

Moreover, each student needs a variety of problem-solving skills. In math--as in life--there may be more than one "right" answer.

Taking into account the individual needs of students, what motivators are best to employ?

So, What Motivates Students to Learn Math?

1. Making connections to everyday life

If students think math is irrelevant to their lives, they won't be as excited or motivated in math class.

However, when students see how math in real life situations works, they'll be more willing to stick with a problem.

Find ways to demonstrate how math applies to your students' lives, whether its telling time, measuring their bedroom, or adding up the price of a desired item--tax included!

 2. A thoughtful environment

Before math can really stick, kids need time to think about the problems they're solving.

Writing in a math journal is one way that students can visualize their math thinking and learn which strategies are most helpful.

Talking over strategies with teachers or peers can also encourage kids to slow down and think about the problem-solving process.

3. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators

Human nature being what it is, sometimes old-fashioned motivators are key to math success. If students finish a particular number of lessons or meet their classroom learning goals in another way, built-in rewards can build confidence and renewed excitement.

For example, Imagine Math lessons reward students with a given number of points upon completion. Students then redeem these points in a variety of ways, from customizing their avatar to gaining extra free time during class.

4. A "mistakes are okay" class culture

It's one thing to say that mistakes are okay. But effective teachers also show students how "wrong" answers are actually just clues to solving a puzzle.

Spending a few minutes reviewing tests, homework, or class assignments can help encourage these productive conversations. Even just a few post-test inquiries about a student's thought process can shed light on where they experienced setbacks and why, opening a space for teachers to provide any additional insights or corrective instruction.

When students see mistakes as necessary to the growth process, they'll feel better about making errors--knowing they're moving along on their individual learning path. (read more about how to Create a Growth Mindset)

5. Charitable opportunities 

Most children are naturally inclined to help others. Sometimes, they just need a chance to focus outward--an opportunity to assist others in need.

That's why in Imagine Math, students can choose to donate their earned points to a charitable cause--such as a donation to the Red Cross or to the local food bank.

Over the years, Imagine Math students show us again and again that math motivation may be just as simple as doing good in the community.

Read More: 8 Ways Teachers Use the Standards for Mathematical Practice in the Classroom

The Takeaway

When students realize that math matters in their lives and that making mistakes is a normal part of learning math, their motivation naturally rises--even as they attempt to solve challenging problems. And that's what excites us at Imagine Learning--seeing students reach for their learning potential.

So take the time to demonstrate to a child how math matters in their own life and in the world around them. And get ready to watch your students learn and grow.

See how Imagine Math Facts can help develop math-motivated students.