10 Ways to Motivate Elementary Students to Value Math

Article Summary: As a team, our staff has taught math at just about imaginable level and setting. From the extreme poverty stricken districts to the elite private schools. We all agree regardless of your setting, kids are kids. They like candy, ice cream, and puppy dogs. They also seem to scared of math; as if it were a horror film that comes to life. Here are some quick tips to get them going.

Children are no different than adults. We all need motivation and encouragement. Use relevant issues to motivate them and allow them to use the creativity within them.

Real-World Issues Motivate Students

Use real world issues. Hunger in Calcutta. Tsunami's in India. Allow students to become involved in issues like these where they can make a difference and at the same time you can use math in every decision you make.

What about math games?

There are many math games to play. From board games, card games, online games, video games and the list go on. Through the use of games students learn that it can be fun to use math. That it isn't just a serious activity. Try using the speechless game. They are not allowed to speak or make a noise, but have to go and write answers on a white board.

Use designing

Allow the students to design something they like and have a passion for. For boys perhaps a kite, for girls a dollhouse. When you draw them into making and designing something useful to them, they will see math in a different light. It will motivate them to learn more and to use it in what they like.

Use a reward system

What about using a reward system. Take the students on outings or set up a bank system where they earn rewards for accomplishing certain math skills or tasks. Then they can make deposits or withdraw and learn other basic skills as well.

Disease and medicine

Disease is a part of life, and even many students are battling with some form of it. Identify a certain disease that students are battling with and allow them to do a research on this and motivate them to use their math skills to come up with usable suggestions.


Water is a part of our lives. We need it to survive, but most of our water sources are polluted. Teach them to test the ph balance in the water, to come up with solutions on how to purify water and save rivers, lakes, etc... They can use their math skills and even go out to the different sites and learn many other skills.

Emotional Gain

Sweets only work for a little while, but genuine praise can motivate a student to excel in math. Every one needs to feel some sense of security in what they do. They need to feel pleasure but also prestige. When you bring that into account they will learn that to do something for themselves gives a feeling of satisfaction and personal gain.

Lead by example

To motivate students you need to lead by example. It's easy to say, do what I tell you, but a student will do what they see you do. So be the one that motivates them trough your example. Tell and show them how to motivate others by using math.


Encourage students to plan their own activities and outings. They can draw up charts, use math creatively in any way they can think off. Then allow them to come back to class and give a full report of what they did and why. This allows them to take ownership for their actions.

Intern program

Set up an intern program where students can come and be an intern for a week. Each one gets a turn to do this. Let them choose for which subject they want to do internship, then after the week they have to come back and tell why and how they used math in that project.