Finding the Motivation for Math

That is key in a variety of areas for our kids, isn’t it?  Finding the motivation.  This is particularly true with the types I am mothering.  You know, those insanely frustrating, internally driven individuals, the kind who are not to be threatened nor bribed to perform? Whatever they do, it is because they want to, not because I say it is part of the curriculum, or because they get extra time on the iPad.

It seemed easier to find ways of incorporating their interests when they were little, when so much learning was facilitated through active play, games and a good book.  It was all so natural.  Now, as they have grown a bit older, I have had to go out of my way to create meaningful methods to hold their interests on certain subjects.  Currently, that subject is math.  Several months ago I wrote here on how I tried to keep up with S’s energy level during math lessons.

Subtracting the Presidents

When A was in kindergarten he was completely focused on the U.S. Presidents. He had flashcards with their photos and would line them up in chronological order.  He knew all their pets, which political party they belonged to, and could retell at least one humorous story about each of them.  This interest in world leaders kept him going for a long while, and eventually inspired me to teach him borrowing in subtraction.  He was always asking how old Millard Filmore was when he died, or Taft, or JFK.  So, we taught him how to borrow.  He learned quickly. He needed the information.  For months afterward, we would find scrap paper, doodle pads and white boards full of subtraction problems marking the deaths and births of many of our great leaders.

Then I grew lazy.  Math simply became math.  It is definitely not A’s strongest subject, but he is certainly at grade level.  We allowed him to plod along with his worksheets and assignments.  His only frustrations have to do with some obsessive tendencies to be correct the first time.  (aaaaagh!  One of the joys of the inflexible thinking of an aspie?)

Considering Baseball Math and Statistics

However, the other night, my husband unexpectedly reminded me  yet again of the power of motivation.  I had been out for part of the evening, and as he chatted baseball with A, he brought up statistics and RBIs.  Suddenly, decimals and probability seemed of utmost interest to my sixth grader.   He wasn’t complaining that math was boring, or that he didn’t care what the answer was.  He needed this information.

Next school year we may be creating word problems which include pitchers and first basemen.  Algebra equations and geometry proofs. Or he might have moved on to something totally different.  It’s hard to foresee.  Regardless, I don’t want to forget the power of motivation.  I always want to know my guys so well that I can readily pull a math lesson out of a hat – or batting helmet.

 

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