I am teaching mathematics for students from elementary school to senior high school. I advise the students to learn mathematics (as the language of nature) as well as English (as the international language), sciences and computer programming.

The students often think they won't need the mathematics. I tell them that mathematics will train their ways to think, to struggle, to solve the problems which are directly related to mathematics or not. IMHO, learning mathematics builds our intelligence and only consuming healthy food will not make us intelligent!

Another advantage of having a good skill in math is to have a broader chance to take field of study and get a job. But how do I motivate the kids to learn mathematics in terms that will excite them?

  • 1
    I was going to answer but the right answer varies by the child. The question then becomes why do they need to be motivated to do it, which is covered by my answer to your question How to persuade lazy-to-think kids to learn mathematics? Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 20:22
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about cogsci and employability. If edited it would be suitable for cogsci.se as to the effects of learning math on the brain
    – user21179
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 4:48
  • @Marienplatz - your question had been edited in such a way that it drifted off-topic for this particular site. If you'd like to re-ask it to get specificly cognitive advantages, It looks like Skippy is suggesting a different SE that would be more suitable for that incarnation of the question. If I am too far off in my edits - please feel free to roll things back, or re-edit the question to better suit your needs. Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 16:30
  • @balancedmama: thanks for the nice edit. :-) Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 16:34
  • on the matter of learning ways to think etc see also parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/7616/… as well as the question James linked to.
    – Chrys
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:20

5 Answers 5


I actually assissted in a math classroom for one of my internships to become a teacher. My lead teacher pretty much handed over the control of her "resource class" (those are generally the kids that have the hardest time with math, hate it, and think they don't need it) What I did with them that worked really well, was to present them with a project that required them to research their intended career field and find the math they WOULD need to use for that career (I seriously cannot think of a single career that would require absolutley no math at all - and even IF there was one out there, there is still shopping to do which involves adding, subtracting and using percentages at least).

It simply eliminated the argument, "but I won't need math."

Additionally, I talked to them about how there is an element of "learning to learn" involved.

Then, I did my best to make the learning fun and relevant as much as possible, games, graphing stats about the popular movie that was out, doing surveys and calculating facts and figures related to the survey outcomes . . .

Since you are advising and not actually doing the teaching, I understand the actual classroom apporoach is probably largely out of your control - using this approach might be somewhat difficult. However, I think the general idea still applies. Sit down with them and talk about their career plans and which math it is they will need to use for that career. Say all the things you are already saying. Play a game of poker (for cookies or something) with them and talk about how understanding probablilities helps their game. Then, if they don't take your advice - unfortunately, there probably isn't a lot more you can do for them. They'll miss out and either learn they are missing out, or maybe it won't be a big deal for them later (that will all depend on the individual).

Good Luck!

  • Bringing real world (and common!) scenarios to light is the thing that always seemed to get best results when I used to tutor math. Money, betting games, and sports are all easy examples that can easily require even higher level math. If the kids are interested in other fields (especially anything science related) then show how the math is important to those fields.
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 15:48

Many math teachers fall into the trap to teaching only the procedural knowledge of math--that is, they get so wrapped up in teaching the steps to successfully work the problem that they forget to teach their students the declarative knowledge of math--the WHY they need to be able to do math.

As balanced mama said, the more you can incorporate real life and real math into the curriculum, the more students will see the value in it.


I agree with everyone who has posted on here. Growing up, my math teachers only cared to finish the syllabus and not really see if anyone understood anything - as long as they felt like their job was done. It's very hard to get kids to think that Math is worthwhile. What I do is have a blend of activities to keep their attention. Have some roleplaying where they keep an imaginary store and have to sell items. This will get them crunching numbers. Assign some online gaming time. There are plenty of Cool Math Games for Kids online. I use the one linked here but there are so many you can research. The third thing to do is to download worksheets, they are a great way to keep the child learning and engaged at the same time.


I know this is an old question. I agree with the opening statement of the deleted post t that I quote here: "Students tend to find reasons to get themselves out of something."

As an example, my son is quickly picking up mental math while playing Dungeons and Dragons. When playing, players need to quickly apply their characters' modifiers to the dice rolls to play the game. Instead of whining and complaining about being asked to add "8+6", he is being asked for his chance to hit when rolling 8 and a modifier of +6.

In the former case, he will whine and complain and drag it out for several minutes, in the second case he will answer quickly and confidently in under a second. It is exactly the same problem, just phrased in terms of his interests instead of a drill with no context.

Another example is kids with strong interest in baseball often learn long division early because simple statistics are a big part of the baseball culture.


TL;DR Light humour and using interests

Instead of asking "What is 2+2?", find out the interests of the children. Do they like computer programming or video games? We all felt bored seeing non-applied mathematics and this is why some did not care for Maths. It's because many didn't see anything exciting about it. That's why some of us have failed with grades.

If you've got equations and formulae, what about showing it on paper and then on a computer for example?

Perhaps 'trends' like Minecraft or whatever kids are into these days could teach very basic physics.

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