Lately, a lot of focus in what I’ve seen in math has been around motivation. It’s a key term in education, and more or less a standard to which people are help – who is supposed to motivate kids to learn, and who is held accountable for it? Some say parents, teachers, districts, kids themselves, etc. So how do we motivate them? I’ve seen a few ways:
1. Make the work more interesting/relevant/practical/etc.
This method relies on the kid engaging with the work because it just makes sense to engage with it. It’s interesting, fresh, and usually much more concrete than solving a number problem.
2. Make their lives dependent on it.
You know those posters…”Think You Won’t Need Math?” then it lists jobs that need math…right? I agree that all jobs, in fact all areas of life rely on math in some way. However, I think that motivation stops being relevant around middle school. I’m an avid math educator, and I think many of the skills you learn in math could help in life. I really do. But who needs trig unless they plan on going into math or science fields? Why does everyone need to know trig? Why not teach them how to work collaboratively, so that the kid who knows trig and hates writing can work with the writer who hates trig?
**Side note: I hate these posters.
Some teachers make the subject interesting by showing their own interest. Some just engage students personally (or in a similar way), and motivate them to get an education (and students accept that math is part of that).
Is just one of these ways enough? Do students need a blend, or can we assess the levels of motivation they have coming in and work off those? Some students will show up and learn no matter what you do…do they need to be “motivated” further?