New Evidence On How To Best Motivate Students In Project-Based Maths

One of the major concerns with project-based learning is how to get students to continue working on their projects until they are finished—a problem that seems to be particularly difficult in mathematics classrooms, where students often struggle with motivation. But new research could provide the solution you’ve been looking for.

How To  Motivate Students In Project-Based Maths

Read on to find out what it takes to motivate your students when they’re doing project-based maths and how this knowledge can help you create the best environment possible in your classroom.

What is project-based learning?

If you ask 10 people what project-based learning is, you'll get 10 different answers. Some folks think it's just a fancy term for group work. Others think of it as extended service learning and collaboration on community projects. Still others see it as experiential education and authentic assessment. 

Although there are differences of opinion about how to define project-based learning, there is widespread agreement that PBL gives students a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts by getting them to apply their knowledge in new situations and from new perspectives. 

In recent years, research has suggested that math teaching methods like PBL produce higher scores on high stakes tests than methods like lecture or direct instruction.

Five key questions when starting a project

  1. What is your desired end state?
  2. What will you do to make it happen? 
  3. Who can help you with goals 1 and 2? 
  4. When and where will you complete goals 1 and 2? 
  5. What are your safety nets in case things go wrong, along with an alternate plan (for those who may not be using a safety net)?

Five key questions to ask before starting a project?

Here are five questions that you should ask yourself before launching a project:

  1. What is my goal?
  2. What resources do I have at my disposal?
  3. 3Do I know what’s required of me?
  4. Can I depend on others to help out or do they need direction as well?
  5. What will I learn by doing it and how will that help me in school and in life down the road?

What do you need to know?

Studies have shown that students who are more intrinsically motivated to do math will also tend to achieve higher grades. The key is to use projects and tasks that are aligned with each student’s interests, while still offering enough challenge.

Try collaborating with your students during project design, and make sure they each understand how their contribution fits into their team’s goal. This will help them stay focused on what they have to do, even if it doesn’t excite them at first glance. Do you want your students to be enthusiastic about mathematics?

Let them choose how and why they learn! After all: motivation is contagious.

Do you have what you need?

Your goal should be to use project based learning in math as a way to help students master specific content and process standards. When you work on projects, it is important that you have an assessment plan in place.

Make sure your assessment plan will allow you to gauge student progress while they are still involved in project based activities, so that they can keep moving forward even if their original project idea did not go as planned.

Have multiple assessments available for students, so if one does not work well for them, another one might work better. If possible, give students a say in how their products are assessed - many times students will want feedback on something besides what may seem like relevant content.

Are there resources out there that might help?

Most people are familiar with traditional methods for motivating students, such as encouraging competition and rewarding good grades. There is a growing body of research, however, that shows educators could get better results by applying other strategies.

For example, there’s evidence that simply being accountable to others for your work (even if it’s just online) can drive higher performance than rewards or competition alone.

Another study found that feedback from teachers was more effective when it focused on helping students improve rather than whether or not they achieved a good grade. Be sure to also look into how you can leverage project-based learning to make math class more engaging and fun while improving kids' overall knowledge base and skills in STEM disciplines.

Who can help if it gets hard?

When you’re a teacher, student motivation is critical to teaching. Researchers have been looking into what makes some students more motivated than others.

There are so many reasons why students come to class uninterested, not knowing what you can do about it?

Teachers sometimes feel powerless when a student has that glazed over look in their eyes and nothing seems to help motivate them or bring them back into class. Are there techniques teachers can use that help reengage these unmotivated learners?

When will you assess progress?

During every project or unit of study, have students self-assess. (Some kids will be more honest and thorough than others, so use some discretion.) Then ask them to set goals for their work in future projects and make sure you’re available for check-ins about what went well and what can be improved upon.

Doing so helps kids see their progress as they proceed through a project instead of getting lost in feedback at the end of it.

This also gives you a chance to celebrate any big wins along the way. And don't forget: Giving kids a voice in their own education is one of the best ways to motivate them. Asking questions like What do you think would help you learn better?

And What's something that really makes sense to you? Gives students ownership over their learning—and that makes all the difference when it comes to motivation.


Author Bio

Jason is an educator, writer and Ed-tech enthusiast who makes his living writing insightful content. He is a well-known author @ Help In Homework and loves to share his views on academic life and educational industry trends. His mission is to make students' lives easier through his research.


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