By Paul Gosselin, Berkshire Center academic tutor
Students learn more when they think success can be achieved. (1) They will try harder and longer if the expectation of reaching their goal is high. Another motivational tool is to use the belief that success is based on one’s own ability and effort. (2)
Math is a subject where these and other motivational tools can be used to a great advantage because success is based on repetition of the gained skills and methodology. When the student achieves initial success, it tends to reinforce the need to practice repeatedly in order to gain further success.
Working diligently at math problems, especially multiple-step and word problems, is an important characteristic of a successful student; even one with problems specifically related to computational deficiencies. Mixing math solving skills with motivational techniques works in most cases on students with learning problems.
Another key point when tutoring students is to determine the learning method prevalent with the individual. Using the proper teaching methodology based on the student’s ability to learn is an important ingredient leading to success in any skill including learning math. Keeping students “on goal” is important as procrastination is a great deterrent to progress in math. Math uses skills that build up to much higher levels and require constant progress toward the goals at each level, whether in arithmetic, algebra or even calculus.
Letting students know that the skills learned in math are directly transferable to their chosen profession, and will lead to financial rewards now and in the future may be the ultimate motivator. However, the old adage “What works is best.” applies in this field also.
(1) Expectation theory
(2) Attribution theory