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Why Do So Many Kids Play in Soccer Leagues? May 16, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Motivation.
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I had three kids in soccer leagues this year.  Our city league is always packed full of players.  I got to thinking a lot about why so many kids play soccer, especially when it’s obvious that some of those kids are so not cut out to be soccer players.  Many times it’s because the parents think the kids need some organized sport.  The kids need exercise.  They need to learn about competition.  And in fact, many of the children who play soccer beg their parents to sign them up.  However, from my observation, few play because they absolutely love the game.  Some do, of course, but most of them play because they love the treats at the end of each game.  And the trophy or medal at the end of the season doesn’t hurt, either.

An interesting thing is that as kids get older, they choose to play soccer because they like it.  They don’t care so much about the treats and the medal is silly to them.  They play because they want to.

So why am I posting this on my math blog?  It’s because it’s all about motivation.  Many of the kids that stay in soccer throughout the years until their teen years learned to love soccer in the early years because they kept playing, even when they were pretty much in it for the treats.  Some kids naturally loved soccer because they were good at it from the beginning.  Others may not have been gifted at the sport and weren’t motivated by the treats and thus quit at an early age (or didn’t even try.)  Still others may have tried it, not liked it, but then tried it again later and found they really did like it.

It’s just like this in learning math, too.  Some kids will stay with math if they get rewards like food or trophies and learn to like it.  Others naturally love it because they are good at it.  Some kids won’t seem to be motivated to learn math if they don’t catch on quickly, and the motivator offered isn’t right.  And some may decide they don’t like it or can’t do it – and those are the kids that need to do something different for a while before they come back to it and find they really do like it.

For a while, I felt like kids should just do their schoolwork and learn just for the love of learning.  I felt like “external rewards” shouldn’t be given because they weren’t related to the task at hand.  It should simply be reward of feeling good about accomplishing something that should be the motivator.  But  I soon found out that doesn’t always work, especially in kids.  Sometimes learning or exercise is hard work and is boring, and it’s the rare kid indeed that will work hard on something just for that inner satisfaction.  What works better is not only offering incentives and rewards but to praise children who work hard and tell them how good they must be feeling for accomplishing the task.

I really wanted my kids to love playing the piano.  My oldest son did not enjoy it.  I knew he loved playing computer games, so we used that as a motivator.  For every minute of piano he played (1/2 hour minimum, 1 hour maximum), he earned an equivalent time on the computer.  Talk about motivation!  He started playing a lot, so I had to double the piano-playing requirement.  Within a year or so, he found that he actually enjoyed playing the piano MORE than computer games.    The same can be done with math.

My 8 year old son loves to have money.  I gave him a math workbook, and thinking it’d take him about 4 months to finish, I wrote on the last page of the workbook that he could earn $5 if he finished it before the 3 months were up.  He zipped through that workbook so fast – one week he did about 35 pages.   Some of the pages were more difficult than others so some weeks he went a little slower.  He finished it up in just 2 months.  He says he loves math, even though he did struggle on parts of it.

Think about what motivates your child.  Write these things down so you can use them to motivate your kids.  Keep adding to the list!


6th Grade Math Challenge May 10, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation.
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1.  Complete units on the following topics: Do in any order, except that percentages comes after decimals and fractions, and word problems should be done last.

❑ Decimals
❑ Fractions
❑ Percentages
❑ Geometry
❑ Place Value
❑ Multiplying and Dividing (with 2 digit numbers and 10’s, 100’s and 1000’s.)
❑ Word Problems

2.  Create a fun math game.  Play it with someone.

Date completed:
Describe your game:

3.  Play 1 math game per week with older or younger sibling
Week:  1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18  ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑  21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33  ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

4.  Teach younger sibling a math lesson 1x a week.
Week:  1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18  ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑  21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33  ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

5.  Read about a famous mathematician.  Read from at least two sources.

Date completed:

Name of mathematician:

6.  Give an oral presentation of the famous mathematician you read about.

Date completed:

7.  Read these living math books:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Tales by Malba Tahan

How to Count Like a Martian by Glory St. John

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy and Richard Walz

8.  Master your times tables up to 12×12.  Set a goal to improve your speed and meet it.

My Goal: _____________________________________    Date mastered: ________________________

9.  Create a 12×12 times table chart.  Find at least 6 patterns and list them here:

10.  Laminate your 12×12 times table chart.  Hang it in the kid’s bathroom.

11.  Estimate how much at least 15 items will cost at the store.  Do this five different times.

#1 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#2 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#3 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#4 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#5 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

12.  On a trip, calculate the following before you leave.  Compare to actual numbers.  Do this 3 different times.

#1 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

#2 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

#2 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

13.  Read 5 large numbers of mom’s choice.

Date completed: _____________________________________

14.  Plan a math games party.  Plan fun games and snacks.  Invite friends.


Yearly Math Challenges May 1, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation.
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Sometimes it’s hard to remember to do all the fun stuff in math. We get stuck in our workbook rut, and then the kids start complaining… you know how it goes.

One fun thing that we’ve done is to create an math challenge award program for the year. Kids still are learning skills, but they also get to have fun stuff too.  Basically I create a check-off list for the whole year of things each child should accomplish in math, and if they do, they earn an award (or reward).   You can tailor this to your own child’s needs.  Sometimes for younger kids, I’ll just write in the back of their workbook what the reward will be when they finish the book, and play games with them during the week.  I make these math challenges mainly for the older kids.  Many of you wanted to see what this looks like, so I’ve posted some on this blog.

You can have your child help make the year challenge. When the challenge is complete, present your child with an award. It could be a certificate, a trophy (buy an old one at the thrift store and make a new name plate), cash, a toy, party or whatever you decide.  It might be fun to have something that could be earned yearly to place on a plaque.

6th Grade Math Challenge

7th Grade Math Challenge

Fun Math Games! April 1, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Math Games.
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It’s amazing how fast kids can learn their math facts by playing games. Plus it’s a lot funner than doing endless worksheets. I’ll be posting lots of math games that are free or very inexpensive and take little or no prep time.  Many of these came from my friend Tina, others we created on our own or adapted from ideas on the internet.

What if my child hates math? March 9, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Motivation, Q&A.
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Well, then, you’re going to have to change what you’re doing. Isn’t insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting the different results?

It’s my belief that any child can learn to love math, however, it may not be in the traditional way we are used to. So what can you do?

#1. Talk to your child. Find out what his frustrations are, and why he hates it. You can still tell him he’s gotta do some math, but you could work out a plan to do it differently. Often a child will come up with a much better solution than one you thought of. He’s in charge of his education, not you. But the parent does set boundaries.

#2. Set the example. Be sure you’re not saying you hate math or complaining about it. Start reading some fun math books on your child’s level or even just above. Talk about what you learned and say how cool it is. Read the book at the lunch table, and then leave the books out. Point out when you use math, but don’t lecture. It has been said that mathematics is the language that God used to write the universe, show him why math is important and tell him how cool it is that God gave us math to be able to understand our surroundings. Look for patterns around you.

#3. Ditch the workbooks for a while. Most children who are hating math hate it because they don’t like the dryness of step-by-step workbooks. Do living math to teach your child to love learning. Read real math books out loud. Play games. See my site at www.inspiremath.com to get started.

#4. Try a math certification program. Sometimes we get so bogged down doing workbooks, we don’t have time to fit in the fun stuff. A math certification program could be tailored to your own child. It would list the items to be accomplished in a year, such as choosing 4-5 math titles from a list, playing a game with a sibling weekly, estimating the cost of a cart of groceries 4 times, etc. The award for completion could be whatever you determine, from a certificate, a trophy (buy one at a thrift shop and make a new nameplate), a party, etc. Allow your child to come up with ideas for the year’s certification with your approval, and offer to do the certification too.

#5. Motivators. Write a list of things that motivate your child. What does he love to do? When he finishes his schoolwork, let him do it.

#6.  Positive Peer Pressure.  Try doing a math games class with children around your child’s level.  Be careful about using peer pressure, though, it could be demotivating if the child feels dumb.  Do family math challenges.  Whoever can tell me 7×8 first gets out of dinner chores!

#7.  Outside Help.  Sometimes the situation may call for a someone else to tutor your child.  However, I think it’s more important to try the attitude of the child at home first.  If you’ve exhausted all your resources, maybe it would be helpful to find a tutor.  But be sure that the tutor will motivate and teach positive attitudes, or the problem could become worse.

Whatever you do, if your child is hating math, don’t keep forcing it. Start inspiring it.