Math can often seem intimidatingly complex for many students. Many may believe they won’t ever excel at it and be put off from studying it altogether. Teachers can instill a passion for math with students by employing various forms of engagement techniques ranging from fun brain breaks between worksheets to modern technology such as the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives for Kinesthetic Learners or Prodigy’s adaptive math game Prodigy.
1. Make it fun
Many students don’t find math particularly engaging, which can cause anxiety and lead to low student performance. Making math enjoyable can help students overcome this barrier to learning.
Engaging students in mathematical activity through games and hands-on activities is one of the best ways to make math enjoyable for them. You could use these as short brain breaks between worksheets, or they can help build upon concepts taught in class.
Ask your students to survey their classmates about their favorite animals, then create bar graphs from the results. Or play twister by labeling a mat with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts and having students place their hand or foot over one they think is correct when called out by you.
2. Make it relevant
Students can be encouraged to pursue math by understanding its applications in daily life. Show them that math can benefit every aspect of their lives – this will foster hope and confidence that can lead them towards excelling at this subject matter.
Math can be daunting for students who feel powerless over their ability to understand it, which makes it all the more essential that we encourage perseverance while acknowledging that making mistakes is part of learning math.
At times, students need encouragement for their efforts rather than praise for their achievements, so being patient with them is key. Furthermore, an engaging classroom environment should encourage discussions while giving each child space to express themselves freely in a way they find comfortable.
3. Make it challenging
Many students struggle to maintain focus when solving complex math problems, leading them to miss key steps and cause errors and frustration in the process.
One way teachers can engage their students is by making it challenging for them. Teachers can do this by slowly introducing new concepts and skills so students have time to practice them; or by engaging in real-life math activities like restaurant bills or car payments as real world examples.
Encouraging students by setting them a challenging task can also serve to motivate them and show them they have the capability to reach success. This can increase confidence and build hope, motivating them to learn more mathematics – they may even begin looking forward to it!
4. Make it engaging
Utilizing multiple teaching strategies can be used to engage and motivate students. Activities, music and songs, games and nursery rhymes that contain rhythmic patterns that help memorize multiplication facts can all serve to increase engagement and participation from learners.
Integrate student interests into math problems and equations, such as discussing probability with their favorite sports team or calculating how many soda they could buy with $20. The goal should be to make math seem relevant instead of an isolated topic.
Unlock information about students’ homes, hobbies, hopes, and heritage so they feel like part of a class community and that mathematics belongs to them. Stress that ability isn’t innate; students who seem more proficient may simply have been given more help or have had an earlier start than other classmates.
5. Make it personal
Mathematics can be deeply personal to a student who struggles, making the subject even more of a struggle than it initially appears to be. Teachers need to show their students they can succeed at mathematics despite popular perceptions such as: ‘I’m no good at math.” Teachers should help their students realize they can improve with practice.
As teachers, creating meaningful relationships with their students is the key to motivating them to learn mathematics. Teachers can get to know their pupils better while engaging them in activities that make math relevant to their everyday lives; such as conducting interviews on hobbies, entertainment and workplace situations for tailored curricula that emphasize belonging as well as by connecting mathematics to natural phenomena, art or current events.
6. Make it social
As a teacher of math, your enthusiasm can be one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to motivate students. A simple change in tone or expression may have a dramatic effect on student interest levels.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) techniques such as productive struggle and belonging can help your students feel more engaged with math classes. By including these strategies into your instruction, you can encourage them to take an active role in their own learning while building confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Another effective strategy for making math more social is demonstrating its role in everyday life. You could ask students to write down where they encounter numbers during their day-to-day lives in order to demonstrate its relevance for personal experiences.
7. Make it real
Some students dislike mathematics because it is difficult for them to form an adequate foundation, or doesn’t present enough challenges. Yet for every student who finds math distasteful there will always be one who embraces its challenges and enjoys working through them.
One of the best ways to motivate students to learn mathematics is to show them they can make strides towards improvement. Teachers should do this by drawing attention to gaps in knowledge; this leverages students’ desire to fill any voids in their understanding.
Renaissance’s Freckle for Math program employs real-life scenarios and engaging lessons to engage students in productive struggle and foster growth mindsets while encouraging hopefulness, perseverance, community building, and rigorous thinking.