Motivation to study math

I felt very inspired by the story I posted last time, about the 12 kids who wanted to have a class to study arithmetic, and then finished 6 years worth of school math in 20 weeks - meaning they had 20 contact hours with the teacher, and who knows how many hours spent on homework.

They studied the four basic operations, fractions, decimals, percent, and square root. I figure they didn't go into algebra - just arithmetic.

Like it said in the article, the material itself is not incredibly difficult, once your mind has developed to handle these concepts.

The story shows how much motivation (and subsequent hard work) can do. So how could we increase our students' motivation to study math?

I feel it is important to PREVENT the student's feeling of, "I hate math" or "I don't like math" that the traditional math instruction seems to produce. Little kids usually like learning about different things. Somehow we must keep that enthusiasm going strong.

For example:

  • As much as possible, the teacher should love and like math. Your motivation and enthusiasm spreads to your students.
    If you need to, first learn math yourself - including WHY things work. Find something you like about math. Read books perhaps - and I don't mean school books but 'fun' math books, books about beauty of math, or math history, or something different - REAL. Julie at LivingMath.net has an extensive book list. Find something for the kids, too. For example, King Joe books inspire 2-4th graders and incorporate math terminology into interesting stories (but are pricey).

  • I've said this before; I guess I say it again: show your students how math is part of your daily life. You're cooking; you're estimating; you're figuring time intervals; you're shopping; planning a garden; doing taxes; you're figuring how many of something you need etc. Share all that.

  • Never become a slave to your math curriculum. It is a TOOL for learning - not the goal. The goal is to learn.

  • Set up definite goals for math learning. Heather Madrone calls it her "Non-Curriculum". For example, you might have goals on your list such as:

    1) learning concept of number, concept of addition and subtraction using numbers 0-100.
    2) basic place value within 0-100.
    3) start memorizing basic facts.
    4) Explore concepts of fraction, multiplication, division, measuring.

    ...and then you can use math books, games, manipulatives, the curriculum you have, workbooks, worksheets etc. to achieve the goals.

I guess this was quite a rant; I'm sorry if it was just repeating 'old truths'. Hopefully it's helpful to someone out there!

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