Developing positive attitude

What are the incentives needed in order to develop a positive attitude in children and other students towards mathematics?

I don't think special incentives is the main factor in developing a positive attitude towards mathematics.

I feel it is sufficient to get a few of the basics right, and then that alone will take care of most of it, and then students will like math just fine.

Disliking math is not something that is inherent in us or in our kids. Little kids don't dislike math or numbers. They're just fine with them! This "I hate math" or "I don't like math" attitude seems to develop during school years.

Now, I also don't think that children are disliking reasoning, because they're happy to do puzzles and play games where you have to think.

And, students' negative attitude towards math also is NOT due to (school) math being difficult. The math we learn in school is not difficult. You don't have to be a math whiz to understand it.

If you can learn to read and to use computer software, surely you can learn basic math. It's not that complex.

So... here are the two main factors that I feel contribute most to what attitude children develop towards math:

1) The teacher's attitude.

If you love math and are enthusiastic about it, it is seen in your teaching, and your attitude will be somewhat contagious.

It's true the other way around as well: if you don't like math, yet you teach it, students will sense your attitude. (I've written about the teacher's attitude in this article.)

2) How the math is being taught.

Children can end up not liking math when it is taught in such a way that they don't understand it. And, when they don't understand math, then they don't like studying it.

When they don't understand it, then they don't like studying more of it.

The teacher obviously can influence A LOT how the math is taught, but curriculum or the book also plays a role.

So, if we as teachers can get these two basic things straightened out, our students should learn to like math... or at least not hate it.

See also:
Four habits of highly effective math teaching

Is your math curriculum coherent?

How to motivate and prevent math anxiety


Anonymous said…
You are so right on with this post! I used to be mathephobic, but learned to love math through learning some good math tricks in magic books. I don't mean the "three piles of cards" simple tricks, either. I found that some of the best magic effects in the world are based on simple but effective math.

I can say from experience that the worst students at math can learn to love math, because I am one of them.

If teachers would find at least three ways to accomplish every operation they teach, it would serve to show students that although generally most math problems have one answer, they all have several methods to solve for the answer. It's like going on a trip. Ten people can go to Rome, but some can fly, some can walk, some drive, take a train, etc. All will have different adventures.
Thanks for taking us on adventures on your blog!
Dawn said…
I can't agree with you more on understanding. I grew up able to do math but not understadning how it related to world around me or even how the answers were really related to the questions at times. It worked okay with arithmetic but once we were into higher math in high school I got used o failure and thinking of myself as someone 'bad' at math.

Working a cash register and now homeschooling my daughter are the two biggest factors in my changed attitude towards math. That it's not hard and that it's really interesting.

You've nailed the issue.
henry atigogo said…
I completely agree with you regarding teachers attitude and the teaching method affecting students love of the subject- maths or any subject in particular. My opinion has always being that a negative mindset causes less performance.

However, if all teacher are aided to be positive in their attitude, many good potentials will be developed.

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