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take risks in math

3 Tips to Motivate Students to Take Risks in Math

Are you looking for ways to motivate your students to take risks in math class? If you’re like me you want your students to be motivated and take risks in math class.

I have three tips to help your students be motivated to take risks in math class!

#1: Choose the Right Math Task to promote students to take risks in math

Choosing the right math task can make all the difference in our students’ motivation in math class. So, what makes a math task the right one?

  • a good fit for your students current growth area
  • addresses a grade level standard
  • allows for multiple entry points for students (we call this a “low floor”)
  • allows for extensions as needed for students (we call this a “high ceiling”)
  • real world & relevant to your students’ lives

motivate students in math

Here is another blog post you might like about math tasks!
Also, you can find some of my favorite math tasks (that I use daily) right here! This is a month long pack of daily math tasks!

#2: Do the Math Yourself

Once you’ve chosen the right math task then it is time to understand what will take to solve. We have to do the math ourselves so we can fully understand the risks students will need to take to solve. I encourage you to do these 3 things when you are solving the math task.

  1. Solve in as many ways as you can think of. Consider starting concrete (with manipulatives or drawings), moving to visual representations, and then abstract (formulas & equations).
  2.  Reflect on the strategies and models your students typically use and what you would like to see them try next.
  3. Make a note of parts of the task that will pose challenges and that will require risk taking. Then, make a plan to address those risks with your students!

motivate students in math

#3: Give Wait time

Remember, wait time is THINK time. When we give students time to solve, think, and work through the problem we are giving them the opportunity to take a risk. If we jump in to help too soon we take away the opportunity for our students to push themselves to new heights. We must communicate with our students our expectations and our confidence that they can meet those expectations. Then, we need to get out of their way and let them try, fail, and try again. As teachers we want to jump in and help because after all, isn’t that why we are teachers? However, we have to really consider what that help is doing. Are we giving them answers and telling them how to arrive at the answer? Or are we asking open ended questions that help students think deeper about their own thinking instead of giving them our ideas?

So, I urge you. Give your students time to think. Doing math is in the DOING, not in the answer. Embrace the process of doing math because that is where the learning is happening.

What else can we do to get students to take risks in math?

This work is hard, teacher friend. Give yourself grace and remember risk taking and motivation are things that happen with the snap of our fingers. I work hard every single day to build my elementary students motivation in math to encourage them to take risks. Here is an example of one instructional practice that helped me motivate students. Check it out and the classroom videos included right here.

Also, it is essential to build a classroom community of structures and routines that create a safe space for your students to take risks. Without that safety and belonging within a community, risk taking and motivation is an even greater challenge! Check out this blog for more ideas on how to build your math classroom culture!

5 Steps to a Student Centered Math Classroom

student centered math

If you’d like to find out more about how I create a classroom culture that is student centered to empower students to love & understand math then check out this FREE ebook I wrote just for teachers like you. It gives you 5 tips packed with useable tidbits to implement in your classroom today!

Join us in The Math Teacher Collaborative on Facebook

This is a group of like minded elementary math educators working to share ideas and collaborate to make our math classes more engaging and empowering.

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Hi, I'm Mona!

I help 1st – 5th grade teachers like you develop a classroom that lays the foundation for engaging and rigorous student led math instruction.

Learn more about me and how I can help you here. 

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5 Steps to a Student Centered Math Class!

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