Math is a core subject that forms the building blocks for logical thinking and problem-solving. However, it is also one that many students struggle with or dislike. As a teacher, finding ways of how to motivate students to learn math is crucial to their academic success and future career prospects. The good news is that with some creativity, compassion, and the right techniques, you can inspire a genuine interest and passion for math in your students.
Part1. Why Students Lose Motivation for Math
Before exploring strategies to motivate students, it helps to understand the common reasons behind their math anxiety and demotivation:
- Fear of failure – Many students believe they just “aren’t math people”. Past failures, difficulty grasping concepts, or pressure to perform well breeds insecurity.
- Lack of relevance – Struggling to connect abstract math concepts with practical uses can make math seem pointless to learn.
- Poor teaching strategies – Traditional rote learning, intimidating assessments, and one-pace-fits-all teaching cause frustration.
- Information overload – Trying to jam too much content without connecting the dots leads to confusion.
- Uninspiring learning environments – Boring or stressful classrooms drain enthusiasm.
Keeping these factors in mind, let’s discuss proven techniques to reignite your students’ motivation.
Part2. Connect Math to Real-Life
Students generally feel less anxious and more excited to explore concepts when they connect the math they’re learning to real-life situations.
For example, when teaching equations, use relatable examples like calculating tips at a restaurant, profit/loss projections for a lemonade stand business, planning a field trip budget, etc. Making math relevant shows students how useful it is beyond the classroom.
Part3. Encourage a Growth Mindset
Many students believe they simply “don’t have the math gene”. Fixed mindsets like this are major motivation killers. As a teacher, emphasizing that intelligence isn’t fixed but can be developed with effort and practice is powerful. Share inspiring stories of math achievers who persisted despite early struggles. Remind students that mistakes are learning opportunities, not reasons to give up. Celebrate incremental progress and reward hard work, not just natural talent.
Part4. Make it Hands-On to Learn Math
Abstract formulas and theorems can quickly dampen motivation. Bringing lessons to life with hands-on learning experiences boosts engagement and information retention.
Let students work on collaborative projects like designing geometric structures or estimating basketball shot angles. Introducing fun math games. Incorporate manipulatives like counting blocks and 3D shapes so students can understand concepts physically and visually.
Part5. Establish Relevance for How to Motivate Students to Learn Math
When introducing new topics, highlight real-world examples of their application. How is this used by architects, game developers, engineers, small business owners, or data scientists? Tie it into students’ interests where possible. Relevance provides purpose and meaning that amplifies motivation.
For example, use sports statistics when teaching probability or build word problems around pop culture references students relate to. Connecting their math learning to desired careers or hobbies makes it feel worthwhile.
Part6. Offer Choices for Learning Math
Providing some autonomy around how students learn empowers them. Offer interests-based options like sports math vs. music math. Let students choose between working alone or in groups. Giving choices raises responsibility and engagement.
Within lessons, provide hands-on lab workstations where students can self-navigate. Design multi-level assignments so students tackle challenges suited to current competency levels.
Part7. Infuse Technology for How to Motivate Students to Learn Math
Today’s students are digital natives. Leveraging tech tools like online simulations, gaming elements, and digital manipulatives appeals to their innate interests. Enable students to visualize and interact with concepts dynamically through math apps. Blend traditional teaching with online math practice programs for personalized learning.
Part8. Create a Supportive Classroom Culture
Make your classroom a judgment-free zone. Establish ground rules against teasing students who are struggling. Emphasize the importance of teamwork and peer support. When students feel psychologically safe to make mistakes, motivation thrives.
Praise hard work over intelligence and reward small wins. Validate students’ challenges with compassion. Foster mutual respect through team-building activities. A positive classroom culture is the backbone of motivated learning.
Part9. Make Homework Engaging
There are many ways to inspire students to not just complete math homework, but actively engage with it:
- Gamify it with scoring systems, levels, or friendly competition
- Personalize it to align with individual skill levels and interests
- Make it collaborative – e.g. work on practice problems together
- Reward consistent homework effort, not just grades
- Provide feedback – return corrected homework promptly
Part10. Show Don’t Tell to Motivate
Instead of just explaining a math concept verbally, use visual aids. For example, when teaching fractions – create a pizza chart papercraft, tape a ruler on the blackboard, and physically demonstrate increments or overlay transparencies of different shapes. Seeing math concepts illustrated tangibly helps cement understanding and boosts motivation.
Leverage videos, online simulations, virtual manipulatives, or graphing calculators to dynamically demonstrate problem-solving approaches. Engage multiple senses – hearing, seeing, touching – to activate students’ interest.
Part11. Make it Social for Learning
Humans have a fundamental need for social connection. Tap into this by facilitating abundant student collaboration and bonding over math. Create group competitions, projects, and games that require cooperation. Foster mentorships between advanced and struggling students.
Celebrate collective accomplishments like the whole class improving average test scores. Enable students to showcase their math skills through peer tutoring or collaborative problem demonstrations. Remove isolation and foster camaraderie.
Part12. Final Tips for How to Motivate Students to Learn Math
- Avoid excessive lecturing – interaction and activity-based learning is best for engagement
- Incorporate pop culture, current events, or fun ‘HERSHEY’s Kisses’ style math problems
- Appreciate multiple solution methods – don’t just stick to one approach
- Maintain high, realistic expectations to inspire your students’ best
- Infuse humor through cartoons, humorous study aids, and levity when students are frustrated
- Show passion for math – students are heavily influenced by teacher enthusiasm
- Signing up for a Wukong Math Program where they make math fun and interesting is also highly recommended.
Part13. FAQs about How to Motivate Students to Learn Math
Q1. My student hates math and shuts down whenever I try teaching it. What can I do?
Try relating it to their interests more, and look for opportunities to infuse humor and games. Avoid shaming them for struggles, and calmly reiterate the importance of persistence. Small group work may be less intimidating at first. Celebrate little wins to rebuild confidence.
Q2. How can I motivate students who are far below grade level in math?
Meet them at their level rather than frustrating them with work they can’t comprehend. Fill fundamental gaps and slowly scaffold up. Adjust assessments and homework expectations accordingly. Group them with peers at similar levels. Focus on growth and effort over grades.
Q3. My students get bored with lengthy math textbooks and lectures. What should I do?
Try more interactive, hands-on learning like collaborative projects, math modeling, lab stations, etc. Incorporate short videos, digital games, online math tools, and simulations. Use real-world examples they can personally relate to. Enable students to get up, move, and engage.
Q4. How can I motivate students to do math homework when they see no point in it?
Explain how homework directly reinforces what you’re learning in class. Help them set goals and track progress. Make assignments more engaging by personalizing and adding gaming elements or friendly competition. Offer rewards for effort and completion, not just correctness.
Q5. How do you recommend keeping students with different skill levels motivated in the same class?
Use differentiated instruction strategies like tiered assignments, compacting curriculum, flexible grouping, learning stations, and individually scaffolded support. Stress growth, effort, and teamwork over comparing achievement. Ensure all students feel valued.
The key is to transform your math classroom into a positive, stimulating, and student-centered environment. Implementing a mix of creative evidence-based techniques can unlock your students’ potential to not only succeed at math – but learn to appreciate it for how to motivate students to learn math. With the right boost, every student can cultivate a growth mindset and discover that with perseverance, math can be motivating and rewarding to master!
Graduated from Columbia University in the United States and has rich practical experience in mathematics competitions’ teaching, including Math Kangaroo, AMC… He teaches students the ways to flexible thinking and quick thinking in sloving math questions, and he is good at inspiring and guiding students to think about mathematical problems and find solutions.