April 11, 2021

Motivation Matters in Mathematics

Research shows that students are more successful in Mathematics when motivation is considered. In the study Adding It Up by the National Research Council, five strands are identified as critical to mathematical proficiency. One of these five strands, and arguably the most important, is productive disposition. This strand helps student to develop and engage with more success in the other strands.

Productive Disposition is about seeing math sensible, doable and useful. Students who have had consistent struggles in math often see math as a "you have it or you don't" kind of subject. But Jo Boaler explains, "No one is born knowing math, and no one is born lacking the ability to learn math." This is where motivation fits in. In Universal Design for Learning Checkpoint 7.2 is Optimize relevance, value and authenticity. The UDL framework and the 5 Strands of Mathematical Proficiency overlap here. When students understand the relevance of math in everyday life, have confidence in their own abilities and are able to make meaning from it, they are more successful. Let's take a look at some resources to help with motivation in your math class.


Motivation Matters: Three Strategies to Support Motivation and Engagement in Mathematics

This article describes how general and special educators of elementary students with or at risk of EBD can promote engagement in math using reinforcement strategies (i.e., praise and token economies), self-monitoring of attention (SMA), and the high-preference strategy. 

A Growth Mindset in Mathematics

This blog post briefly summarizes some of the work of Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck, both professors out of Stanford University. It helps identify the role mindset plays in math education.


Morano S, Markelz AM, Randolph KM, Myers AM, Church N. Motivation Matters: Three Strategies to Support Motivation and Engagement in Mathematics. Intervention in School and Clinic. February 2021. doi:10.1177/1053451221994803

National Research Council. 2001. Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9822.

Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Finelli, R., Courey, S. J., Hamlett, C. L., Sones, E. M., et al. (2006). Teaching third graders about real-life mathematical problem solving: A randomized controlled study. The Elementary School Journal, 106(4), 293-311.

Boaler, J., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: unleashing students' potential through creative math, inspiring messages and innovative teaching. First edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; a Wiley Brand.

Cover photo credit: Motivation by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

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