3 Strategies to Motivate Students in Mathematics

Students all around the world moan and groan when it comes to maths homework, and even when it’s time for mathematics class. How can we help them to overcome the scared feelings?

Aside from constantly feeding the same set of information to every student in the class and expecting them to ace the class, teachers also have to look at each individuals' motivating factors in order to push them to improve and do well in their studies. Motivation can be split into two types, extrinsic motivation and intrinsic Motivation.

Extrinsic motivation involves external factors or rewards that is outside of the learner or students' control. For example, outstanding performance could lead to economic rewards, peer acknowledgement or praise.

Intrinsic motivation relates to internal factors and has to do mainly with the will and desire to understand certain concepts or to perform well in certain tasks. Students often strive to do well from intrinsic motivation from (1) the desire to understand a concept, (2) egotistically outperform others, (3) impress others.

  1. Unfamiliar Familiar TopicsAn example of intrinsic motivation is to fill in the gaps of existing knowledge. Revealing to students that there exists a gap in their understanding capitalises on their desire to learn more. For example, after learning a topic and doing multiple exercises, they would more or less be confident in what they know, teachers could introduce exercises of the same topic but unfamiliar setting / situations. This would show students that their understanding of the topic is incomplete, and motivate students to wanting to fill the gap.
  2. Presented a challengeBeing presented a challenge can be very effective if done correctly as it triggers both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, as when students are challenged intellectually, they react with enthusiasm.

Being presented a challenge has its risks. The educator should be aware that the challenge is within the reach of the students ability so that it is achievable, if students are presented with a challenge beyond their level of comprehension, it could be distracting and discouraging.

  1. Tell a storyIt is impossible to have a story told for every topic encountered in every subject, but from time to time when introducing a new topic, it is important to have students' interest arise in the topic so that they are not blindly learning information that they deem "irrelevant". A historical story of how a problem arose or a fictional scenario of the cement needed to rebuild the school can help students visualise a problem and increase their motivation to solving it.