How to Motivate Children to Learn Math


There is something about Math that makes its learners very unreceptive. Over the years, studies have proved that Math learners lose interest in the subject between elementary school level and high school level. And they may not regain their interest until they step into college or go beyond that. ACT, a college readiness testing agency, has declared that only 45% of high school students were up for college-level Mathematics.

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That is definitely something to worry about. This piece of information is a picture of the challenges faced by educators when motivating students to learn Math. And that obviously means – educators need to work on unique methods to increase the appetite of their students to learn Math.

Here are some useful ideas that use intrinsic and extrinsic motivational methods to inspire young students to learn and respect Math.

1. Stop presenting the subject as a difficult, unachievable task

Students with normal intelligence will be able to learn the entire math assignments presented to them in their grade school curriculum. In fact, the syllabus is prepared after analyzing many students and their learning capacities. However, many students may fail to learn their Math due to a ‘Psychological factor’. Some teachers tell their students that they cannot learn math or he/she is not good in learning it.

Believe it or not, this causes a ‘fixed mindset’ in many students and they start genuinely believing that their intelligence or learning capacity is not for math. After all, they may be in their tender ages and teachers and parents must take the responsibility to ensure that such a feeling or message is not injected into their minds.

2. Instead, show how creative Math can be

Again, it all burns down to how you (educators) present the subject. Many students end up with ‘Mathematical Anxiety’ (a popular terminology these days), primarily because teachers present the subject as a humdrum learning thing, without much room for creativity and variability.

The truth is – studying Math can be very similar to studying art and music, rather than studying biology or history. Just like music, the basics of Math do not change, but there can be variability in the way math problems are solved. One way to present Math in a creative manner is to provide open-ended problems. Sure, this style of teaching requires more preparation and hard work from the teacher, but they will add more value to your teaching efforts.

3. Avoid giving more emphasis on tests, especially the timed examinations

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Agreed, tests and exams are part and parcel of school learning but they shouldn’t be treated as the ultimate goal or the only way to judge a student’s mathematical capabilities. Remember, the true goal of teaching school-level Mathematics is to help students practice and use Math in real life. Math is also taught to prepare students for higher level education. Exams and tests, especially the timed ones can lead to Math anxiety in young students.

4. Enhance the skills they have mastered and show them how Math is used in real life

An effective method to motivate students is to build on learning techniques that they have already mastered. Try and do this wherever possible. If you can enhance the skills that your students are comfortable with, they will get a sense of accomplishment. It gives them new courage and you can use this to regain their lost interest.

It is a good practice to tell students early in their learning days – how math is used in real life. Once you help students make a connection and see how math helps in their lives, it will bring an amazing transformation to their attitude towards the subject.

These two factors are simple but they can be super-effective to motivate your students.

5. Bring technology into Math

Of late, there has been a never-ending discussion and debate over incorporating technology into education. To a large extent, it has been universally accepted that technology can make a huge difference to the way children learn. The subject of Math is no different in this regard. The right use of technology can help students learn Math better.

There are no limits on how technology can be used to enhance teaching. For example, there are umpteen number of apps in the app market to enhance teaching and learning. At least, you can help your students play some challenging number games, a unique vantage method to approach Math problems. Likewise there are many ways to use gadgets like computers, iPads and laptops to teach Math.

This is a win-win situation, as they call it in business. Not only does it help your students develop interest in Math, by implementing the above ideas, you also become a better teacher. The gift of education is by far the best one can offer to these young and noble citizens of the world. So gift them well and you will be blessed!

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