Thirsty Thursday – Math Motivation

Thirsty ThursdayI am so thrilled to be able to participate in the VERY FIRST Thirsty Thursday with Joy at FiveJs!

Since I started this blog in order to really concentrate on homeschooling, I am glad to have some outside direction to make sure I get some homeschooling thoughts out there each week.

Here in HomeGrownMommy-Land we are still doing school work.  This is somewhat by design and somewhat by necessity.  We had a weird transition into our school-year this time around and it sort of delayed things.  We also had several unexpected “vacations”, if you could call it that!  Ah – the life of a homeschooler!

Moping Over Math

Justus has never liked math, unfortunately.  It doesn’t matter how many rewards I give or cheers I do at his desk, he just doesn’t like it.  I’m okay with that now – I’ve stopped trying to make him think he loves it.  🙂  I don’t want to force him too hard so that he HATES it so I’ve been trying not to make too big of a deal out of it.  But, we DO have to complete fourth grade before the end of July!

Over the year, I have noticed that it has taken Justus longer and longer to get his math work done.  Our policy is to do math first since he is most awake and alert in the morning and it is better to get it out of the way first thing.  The day that he still didn’t have math done an hour after lunch, I knew I had to do something different.  If he is faced with math for hours on end each day, that will NOT foster a loving relationship!

Top 10 Math MotivatorsMath Motivators

I called up (actually, email-ed up, but you get what I mean) the teacher to whom I send my grades regularly (its a long story) to ask her for some help.  She is one of my favorite ladies in the whole wide world and I knew she would have some good ideas.  She did not let me down!  Here are some of the things we are doing now with Justus’ math and the turn-around has been phenomenal!

  1. The timer is our friend!  Most of the ideas are based on the use of a good old-fashioned timer.  It spurs him on to get his work done instead of daydreaming in order to avoid a subject he does not like.  For instance, if he gets 10 problems done in 9 minutes, he gets a special treat or some computer time when he has completed his goals.
  2. Change you can believe in!  We change up his rewards so it doesn’t get boring or predictable.  Maybe one time he gets the treat and the next time he gets to earn some computer time and the next time, something else.
  3. Skip to my lou!  I rarely let him skip problems.  I know some people are really against that – but I used to let him skip problems and it really bit me (and Justus) in the long-run.  But, in order to kick-start his completion of fourth grade math, my accountability teacher suggested maybe letting him skip a few here and there.  He really likes this treat!  He still does the majority of the page, but just the thought of getting to skip one row helps him focus and get the job done.
  4. The way to a man’s heart (or brain, in this case) is through his belly!  We also don’t do a whole bunch of snacking throughout the day but sometimes, Justus will pick this avenue as a math motivator.  Our rules are no food coloring and not a lot of sugar, the rest is fair game.
  5. Computer time.  I have purchase some math games in a desperate attempt to get Justus to love math.  He liked the games and only likes math enough to win the game.  So, I have a card next to him at his desk with a running total of how much computer time he has earned.  At the end of the day, he gets to use as much of that time as is feasible.
  6. Negative reinforcement.  I try not to use this type of motivator very often – it is a very last resort.  He already dislikes math, I don’t want to make it worse.  But, in life, we all have to do things we just do not like to do.  With that in mind, I want to teach him how to complete a task he does not like.  If the happy and pleasant rewards do not work to motivate him three or four times in a row, then we try once or twice with negative reinforcement.  For us, that means taking some privilege or activity away or something along those lines.  Usually, it only takes following through one time with this method and the rewards start to work again!
  7. Stand by me!  Sometimes, he just needs a little birdie watching over his shoulder.  I am usually doing preschool with my two middle ones during the time he is on his math, but if I see he is having a particularly difficult time focusing, I’ll stay near him.  I just lay a gentle hand on his shoulder as he sits at his desk, encourage him with “good job” and “wow, that’s great” as he gets problems correct and “hmmm, are you sure?” when he gets them wrong. Math Motivators
  8. We increased his workload in math.  I know that sounds completely contrary to what might be expected, but it worked.  I didn’t initially see this as a motivator, but that’s how it turned out.  I reduced his workload in other areas so that I could increase it in the 5 core subjects.  This way, I could ensure that we would get school done and grades in by July.  Instead of doing 4 pages in each of 7 subjects each day (28 pages daily), I changed it to 6 pages in each of 5 subjects (30 pages daily).  He noticed the very first day and was so proud of himself that I practically saw the beaming coming around the corner!  He looked at me and said, “Mom!  I got MORE work done in LESS time!  WOW!”  It was a huge motivator for him!
  9. Game time!  I haven’t resurrected this idea yet, but I plan to next week.  I used to sit down with Justus while the little ones were napping to do a math session.  He would tell me what to write and where while I wrote it for him.  It became a fun game for him to try to say the second number before I was done writing the first number.
  10. Use the answers.  Sometimes, if he gets half the page done in a certain amount of time, I’ll let him use the table of answers to complete the next half.  For instance, if he has a page of multiplication, I’ll let him use the multiplication table.

I would welcome any other “math motivators” you might have to help us not only get math done, but also make a little more enjoyable and a lot more learn-able!

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4 thoughts on “Thirsty Thursday – Math Motivation

  1. What a fantastic post! My son is really good in math, but he’s always resistant to admitting he likes it. I love how you said “I’m okay with that now – I’ve stopped trying to make him think he loves it.” I used to worry that he didn’t LOVE math, even though he was good at it, but not any more. There are just some subjects kids will never get excited about, even though they still learn from it.

    I loved your list and I’ve bookmarked it for future use! Thanks for participating in my very first Thirsty Thursday. I look forward to reading more and more of your wonderful posts.

    1. Awww! *blush* You are way to kind in your comments Joy! Thanks so much for the encouraging words! I am excited to see everyone’s posts for the very first Thirsty Thursday!

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