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Motivation in Math

I get the NCTM newsletters through my email, and many of the article titles catch my eye.  I intend to read them "soon," but soon often slips away and I don't get back to them. The other day, the article "Motivation Matters" (by NCTM President Linda M. Gojak, in NCTM Summing Up, March 7, 2013) caught my attention, and I couldn't wait to read it. I had questions.....whose motivation - students'? teachers'? motivation to do what? So I read.

For me, the highlights of the article included the importance of intrinsic motivation in math and the idea that students have a  natural desire to find solutions to problems. Gojak emphasizes the importance of providing students with enough TIME to work on tasks (I don't know about you, but I feel I never have enough time in my 44-minute periods!)

 Also included in the article were important characteristics of mathematicians:
        "In “Lesson from the TIMMS VideotapeStudy (Teaching Children Mathematics, November 2000), Eugene Geist identifies seven characteristics of mathematicians as they go about solving problems. Mathematicians:
                    *  often work for a long time on a single problem;
                    *  collaborate with their colleagues and study the work of others;
                    *  must prove for themselves that their solutions are correct;
                    *  work on complex problems;
                    *  get satisfaction from the process;          
                    *  gain a sense of pride in attaining solutions;                               
                    *  use unsuccessful attempts as stepping stones to solutions."

I have spent time this year creating problem solving tasks for students to complete cooperatively, and have been impressed with the math conversations I have overheard. The second time we did the cooperative problem solving, several students expressed their excitement about it... they actually commented that they enjoyed working on the problems!

I had already felt that I was providing good opportunities for my students, but reading this article reinforced my beliefs, and motivated ME to think about creating more tasks and opportunities for problem solving.

What motivates your math students?


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