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Questions tagged [student-motivation]

For questions concerning the motivation of students and helping them to motivate for their study in general.

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64 votes
13 answers
9k views

How to get past the "mystique" of Maths

This question is primarily discussing maths education for adult learners, on courses teaching engineering mathematics at an undergraduate level. These students generally never set out specifically to ...
MadScientist's user avatar
54 votes
13 answers
12k views

How do I motivate my students to go to office hours?

I'm currently TAing a Linear Algebra class where a significant portion of the class is struggling, oftentimes getting marked down on homeworks or tests because they misunderstand some concept (rather ...
user avatar
44 votes
4 answers
3k views

Teaching undergraduates who expect a high-school-like learning environment

tl;dr: Some students expect to be told "what's on the test", to memorize and then move on. What can be done to change how they learn while teaching them what to learn? Context: Introductory, ...
Brendan W. Sullivan's user avatar
42 votes
5 answers
3k views

How can I help a student who has a "wrong" kind of enthusiasm?

Alice (not real name) is a student in one of my Math 100 (calculus) classes. It's a course offered by my college as a dual credit course at a high school, so the whole class is about 17/18 years old, ...
Torsten Schoeneberg's user avatar
41 votes
23 answers
7k views

How should I answer questions about the purpose of learning math?

What are some good answers to questions e.g. "why do we need to study square roots"? Of course the answer depends highly on who is asking. For the scope of my question, I have a student in ...
BKE's user avatar
  • 1,282
38 votes
18 answers
9k views

How do I show students the Beauty of Mathematics?

I teach many high school students, and all of them complain about being unable to fully understand mathematical concepts. I try to show them the joy of learning and deepen their understanding through ...
Axel Tong's user avatar
  • 863
38 votes
6 answers
4k views

How can I give feedback that is not demotivating?

Background: To cope with online education, I taught linear algebra using a variant of the flipped classroom. I recorded videos and put them up on YouTube and students presented the content in these ...
Divakaran Divakaran's user avatar
37 votes
13 answers
3k views

Examples why university education is important for future high school teachers

At my university, the students in math are mixed up (1/3-1/2 are bachelor/master students, the rest are future high school teachers). A problem arising very often is the discussion dramatically ...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438
37 votes
10 answers
9k views

Combative students in proofs classes

When teaching my first discrete math class recently, I found a subset of about 5 out of 35 of my primarily computer science students who I struggled to reach. If these students simply struggled with ...
Opal E's user avatar
  • 4,043
35 votes
15 answers
9k views

Justifications for: Why learn mathematics?

I wonder how you teachers walk the line between justifying mathematics because of its many—and sometimes surprising—applications, and justifying it as the study of one of the great ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
32 votes
8 answers
2k views

How to solve the problem of Wolfram Alpha?

I teach to predominantly non-majors in college algebra, precalculus, and calculus. How can one possibly incentivize or rationalize assigning practice problems outside of class when this software is ...
goruda's user avatar
  • 423
31 votes
9 answers
7k views

What to do with students who think they "already know it," but actually don't?

Many students take calculus or algebra courses in high school, then later take college courses of the same name. There are various reasons for this, but in most cases the students in a college ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
31 votes
8 answers
3k views

How to react to students saying that they are allergic to applied mathematics?

I'm working in the field of applied mathematics (optimization and numerics) and I meet a lot of students saying that they are allergic to applied mathematics or that they hate it or some quotes like "...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438
31 votes
4 answers
7k views

When is it appropriate to warn about the difficulty of a subject?

I've been a TA across every class in the calculus sequence, under the assignment of professors with different teaching styles and curricula. It's often clear to me ahead of time when a certain subject ...
Feryll's user avatar
  • 419
31 votes
4 answers
1k views

How to tactfully discourage casual, implicit disparagement of mathematics

I volunteer with a group that provides tutoring to kids from grades nine through twelve. The included kids have been determined to be 'at risk of not graduating high school'. Of course, many of the ...
NiloCK's user avatar
  • 5,020
29 votes
17 answers
7k views

Examples of Innumeracy

I read Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos and would like to share more up-to-date and relevant examples of innumeracy to motivate my grade 8, 9 & 10 students. Are there any websites, blogs, books, ...
David Ebert's user avatar
  • 3,905
29 votes
6 answers
2k views

How to encourage women to study mathematics?

What are different ways we can get women to study mathematics? In my own experience, the higher the math class, the less women in the class. Most women tend to go on the math education track and do ...
Felix Y.'s user avatar
  • 1,430
29 votes
6 answers
971 views

How can we help students who are very anxious about math?

In many parts of the world, the majority of the population is uncomfortable with math. In a few countries this is not the case. We would do well to change our education systems to promote a healthier ...
Sue VanHattum's user avatar
  • 20.8k
29 votes
5 answers
1k views

Wonder as motivation

Like all mathematicians, I have a deep appreciation of the beauty of mathematics. Many theorems I find amazing even after I fully understand their proofs. (Example: Euler's formula, $V-E+F=2-2g$. That ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
28 votes
10 answers
9k views

How to justify teaching students to rationalize denominators?

I'm teaching an "intermediate algebra" college course ($\approx$ junior high school or beginning high school algebra) and we have a bunch of problems on rationalizing denominators. How do I motivate ...
Dan Drake's user avatar
  • 383
27 votes
15 answers
3k views

What books are like Knuth's Surreal Numbers?

I'm looking to find more examples of books which bridge the gap between "story" and "mathematics" using narrative and all those other wonderful features we might find in Harry Potter or some other ...
John's user avatar
  • 1,127
27 votes
7 answers
3k views

What arguments can I give a high school student why mathematics is important?

In almost all countries all over the world, mathematics is a main subject in school. Maybe the subject bringing trouble to families with kids. It is clear that scientist, engineers, etc. need ...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438
24 votes
3 answers
565 views

How to teach perseverance?

I have found that when I give problems that require multiple steps or ideas to solve, students often give up quickly and come to office hours begging for hints. Sometimes I break up such problems ...
Mike Shulman's user avatar
  • 6,580
22 votes
5 answers
815 views

Should I tell my students that math is hard for me?

I have read and heard from some other instructors that they attempt to encourage students who find math hard by saying "math is hard for me too, in fact it's hard for everyone!" I have tried this a ...
Mike Shulman's user avatar
  • 6,580
21 votes
7 answers
5k views

Should students be told they're wrong

I base this question off where I got my motivation for math and science. Throughout several attempts in my junior years, I was able to design a perpetual motion machine, design a free energy device, ...
user avatar
21 votes
5 answers
2k views

Teaching a student who refuses to learn

How to deal with a student who refuses to learn? I've met a few of those over the years as a a private-class math teacher. They don't want to learn anything about the subject. Some of them are just ...
Mefitico's user avatar
  • 349
21 votes
4 answers
896 views

How to help motivate math when tutoring low level algebra (High school)

I was tutoring a student today and we were doing basic factoring of quadratics and expanding terms like $(x+2)(x+5)$. Now he ended up being able to do this by the end of our 2 and a half hour session, ...
RedWings's user avatar
  • 313
20 votes
5 answers
642 views

Making standards for "showing work" explicitly clear to students

I do not mean for this thread to be a discussion of whether or not students should show work on an exam, whether they should be docked points for just "seeing" an answer and writing it down, whether ...
Brendan W. Sullivan's user avatar
20 votes
8 answers
7k views

What's a good policy for accepting late homework?

There are a lot of ways of handling late homework submissions, of which I've only tried a few. The general policy I've settled on is something like the following. Homework must be submitted at the ...
Adam Bjorndahl's user avatar
19 votes
15 answers
1k views

What is fairly new theorem one can teach (and prove) to an undergraduate student?

Many students complain about how old the things in mathematics are. When students finish their undergraduate studies, there are usually not able to state results and prove them which were found after ...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438
19 votes
6 answers
3k views

Motivating the study of matrices

In Brazil's curriculum students are taught matrices in high school. Here, however, there is no linear algebra or pre-calculus, therefore matrices end up being just tables with lots of "arbitrary" ...
Lucas Virgili's user avatar
19 votes
3 answers
1k views

How to deal with very motivated students having "off-topic" interests?

There are some very motivated students who are very interested in math (in general), where the interest takes over most of their time. The problem is that they don't put enough time in the lecture ...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438
17 votes
14 answers
12k views

How is education in mathematics relevant to law?

Many students who take courses in mathematics go on to pursue "non-mathematical" careers. I'm wondering, in particular, about those who go on to study Law, and how mathematics is (or can be made) ...
user avatar
17 votes
4 answers
3k views

What are some of the open problems that can be suitably introduced in a calculus course?

I feel it may be a good idea to introduce some related open problems in a calculus course. Surely I am not expecting my students to solve any one of them, though I cannot say it is absolutely ...
Zuriel's user avatar
  • 4,275
17 votes
5 answers
519 views

How do you revise?

I'm not too sure if this is the right place for my question, but I couldn't think of anywhere more suited. I am a first year university Math student, I am currently revising for six end of year ...
Mark's user avatar
  • 273
17 votes
5 answers
2k views

Overload of Calculus homework assignments

I am a new calculus teacher in a high school for gifted students. I am the youngest teacher, I am not in my home country, and this country particularly values age and experience, so I have little room ...
Taladris's user avatar
  • 1,491
16 votes
1 answer
1k views

The general and particular in the psychology of mathematics education

Many students I have spoken with who are drawn to becoming mathematics teachers chose their mathematics major because they enjoyed doing routine exercises in high school. The comfort of a definite and ...
Jon Bannon's user avatar
  • 6,173
15 votes
11 answers
4k views

What are some research-level opportunities in mathematics that do not focus on proofs?

The research level of mathematics (what is done by professors and upper-level graduate students) tends to be heavily portrayed as focused on writing proofs to the exclusion of most anything else math-...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
15 votes
13 answers
3k views

Mnemonics for some properties in mathematics

I am looking for various mnemonics which help students to remember some important properties or theorems. Very often students confuse signs or relations such as $\leq$ and $\geq$ in some expressions. ...
YukiJ's user avatar
  • 712
15 votes
5 answers
798 views

What are some recent, interesting, accessible pieces of mathematics

Mathematics can come across as a sterile, dead subject - a catalogue of techniques long-ago decided, and forever relearned by each successive generation of students. This is approximately true for ...
NiloCK's user avatar
  • 5,020
15 votes
5 answers
798 views

How to get through the boring stuff?

It frequently happens that there's some material I have to cover which is, frankly, boring. The subject itself may be boring, or it may be the particular exercises, but in any case I have to get ...
Javier's user avatar
  • 675
15 votes
3 answers
872 views

What can be done to instill good habits in students?

This question might sound vague, but I'm really just looking for particular examples that worked for you. From my experience, it seems like a large portion of "weak" students remain weak despite ...
jon's user avatar
  • 443
14 votes
7 answers
2k views

Interacting with high school teachers (US)

I am a parent of a HS freshman who is taking precalc/trig now. His teacher is pretty much useless; my son has to come to me or my wife (let's just say that each of us has about 100+ college and ...
StasK's user avatar
  • 657
14 votes
8 answers
2k views

What is gratifying in being a mathematics teacher?

I think the title says it all, but in case it does not: Is being a math teacher gratifying? If yes, what is gratifying in being a math teacher? (If not, why...) Does the feeling lasts, or perhaps ...
dtldarek's user avatar
  • 8,957
14 votes
2 answers
1k views

What are some activities/projects I can assign to calculus students from bio/chem/physics majors to specifically motivate their interest?

(This question was proposed during the area51 phase.) It's common for chemistry/biology/physics majors to be required to take certain calculus courses. At my school, chem/bio students must take up ...
Brendan W. Sullivan's user avatar
14 votes
4 answers
442 views

Explaining subjects whose justification requires demanding technical content

This is my first question and I hope it's appropriate. Often in the process of teaching a subject I start with examples of a phenomenon, exhibiting similar properties between the examples and ...
Jonas Gomes's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
535 views

Research on how mathematics skills transfer to other areas

Briefly: I am looking for research on the extent to which learning mathematics (let's say "college algebra" if we want to be specific) impacts problem solving skills, abstract reasoning, etc. Less ...
David Steinberg's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
2k views

How early to start "abstract" math education, or, How to prevent smart kids from never getting exposed to math?

Everybody who is in graduate mathematics had a moment where they realized that mathematics was "their thing", and they decided to dedicate their academic career to it. I don't know of many people who ...
JustAskin's user avatar
  • 249
13 votes
6 answers
2k views

Interesting Math Posters

Our undergraduate university department is looking to spruce up our rooms and hallways a bit and has been thinking about finding mathematical posters to put in various spots; hoping possibly to entice ...
Aeryk's user avatar
  • 8,021
13 votes
5 answers
487 views

Use of mathematical humor suitable for motivation/explaination?

There are some intelligent jokes also explaining (in a very extreme way) how mathamticas works, for exameple A mathematician and a physicist are sitting in the teachers lounge. Suddenly the ...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,438