Abstract Middle school is a time of physical, emotional and social change for boys. When students hit middle school, academics tend to take a back seat to all of the new activity in their lives. For boys, middle school is increasingly difficult. In addition to the physical and emotional changes, the academic curriculum becomes more challenging and rigid. This does not align with a typical boy’s learning style. Many boys in middle school are struggling through hard times at home. Situations may include challenges such as little to no parental support, poverty, and malnutrition.
With all of the possible circumstances disrupting their home lives, it is hard for these boys to concentrate on how to solve an equation in math class. Teachers need to motivate boys by providing relevant, hands-on curriculum. Three ways that teachers can do this is by including family members in the classroom, using friendly competition in the form of games and contests, and by relating mathematical lessons and material to real-life situations and interests that the boys might have.
By seventh grade, most students have had years of poor attendance, little parental support, and many other issues related to poverty. They simply do not see the importance of mathematics in everyday life and how math can lead to better things for them. Males, in particular, want to continue the lifestyle they were raised in; showing little to no effort when it comes to the math classroom. This paper discusses three reasons why mathematics teachers should incorporate meaningful motivation strategies as a tool to motivate middle school males in the mathematics classroom. Including Family in the Classroom.
One way that teachers can help to motivate boys in the middle school classroom is to include their families in the classroom. The relationship between family and school influences the academic achievement of middle school students. These family relationships and parental involvement mold students’ educational development drastically. Murdock and Miller (2003) refer to family as a major influence in how middle school boys deal with learning, peers, and motivation. They state “families play the most important role in students’ lives as they transition from elementary school to middle school”.
The absence of a parent can play a very important role in the success of a student, so when the student sees that there is a connection between the classroom and their family, they are motivated to succeed. Middle school math teachers should try their best to create a sense of family cohesion and teamwork in the classroom. Teachers can do this by always making sure parents are aware of what is happening in the classroom, keeping the lines of communication open, and even incorporating projects that might need the student to work with a member of their family to complete it.
Haim Ginott’s theory of congruent communication states that teachers should always use communication that is harmonious with students’ feelings about situations (Charles, 2008). This can be applied to idea of including families in the classroom because teachers need to keep the lines of communication open not only with their students, but with their students’ families. By taking the time to talk to students about situations arising in the classroom, it will be easy for teachers to communicate with parents about similar situations and the lack of motivation within the classroom.
When students know that their families are involved in their academics, they are more inclined to succeed in the classroom. Introduce Competition Next, a second way that teachers can help to motivate middle school boys while in the classroom is to include the use of different games and contests. Most boys respond well to competition with their peers. They will force one another to greater speeds, improved accuracy and higher achievement in the name of winning. Boys thrive on competition, so any type of game or activity that allows them to go against a peer in a competitive manner will motivate them to perform.
In the following quote, Conti explains why he believes that competitions in the math classroom can spark an interest in math for boys. “Mathematics competitions are probably the extracurricular academic programs with the widest participation. The most immediate value of these math contests is obvious – they pique students’ interest in mathematics and encourage them to value intellectual pursuits. Boys love games, and many will turn just about any activity into a contest, or in other words, something to get good at.
Math contests thus inspire them to become good at mathematics just like sports encourage physical fitness. Eventually, students put aside the games. By then, hopefully an interest in the underlying activity has developed” (Conti, 2001). Teachers should create competitions by having students race against one another to solve math problems or turning a test review into a basketball game, allowing students to shoot a basket for every correct answer. The teacher could also place students in groups and award points based on certain behaviors and completed tasks.
A prize would be awarded to the group with the highest score at the end of the week. Jacob Kounin would agree with this point based on his theory of lesson momentum and withitness. Kounin believes that classroom teachers should be able to do a multitude of things at one time, including presenting motivating and engaging lessons, managing the class, and being aware of the classroom surroundings (Charles, 2008). He states that good teachers keep students from getting bored or otherwise frustrated with lessons.
By including competition in the form of games and contests in the classroom, the teacher is able to keep the boys motivated with a lesson while still controlling the needs of the class. When boys know they have a chance to show off their skills by winning something, they will immediately become engaged and motivated to participate. Provide Connections to Real-Life Therefore, a third way that middle school math teachers can motivate boys within the classroom is to connect the material to real-life applications.
Students, particularly those who come from backgrounds that undervalue education, will benefit from this strategy. Stein (1993) expressed his belief in real-world connections revolving around math lessons by stating “Because students often feel that mathematics is the subject least relevant to their daily lives, it is an important arena in which teachers can attempt to incorporate students’ funds of knowledge in the context of culturally relevant mathematics instruction”. For middle school boys, school itself is often the least important factor in their lives.
Teachers can tap into their focus by relating topics to important interests in their lives. One way for teachers to do that is to use democratic teaching; a theory of Rudolf Dreikurs. Democratic teaching occurs in a classroom in which the teacher and students work together to make decisions about how the class will function (Charles, 2008). This applies to the idea of connecting math with real-world situations. Students want to know how what they are learning will benefit them in their future lives.
By brainstorming different topics and careers that the students are interested in, the teacher can then develop lessons that explain how those interests or careers are affected by mathematics. Teachers should show boys how math affects their everyday lives in areas such as: household maintenance, calculating car mileage, budgeting, making larger purchases (cars and houses), or solving problems that are important to them. Connecting math to future careers can also help to motivate boys in math class.
Many unmotivated boys do not realize the importance of math for success in college or the role that math plays in careers that are not overtly math-oriented. Stein also claimed that by using problems that interest and excite the students’ curiosity, students are keen to develop important problem-solving strategies. These strategies can be applied in everyday situations, not just in the mathematics classroom. Conclusion The use of meaningful and male-related motivational strategies in middle school mathematics classrooms are a great way to motivate and help boys succeed.
Most boys are very intelligent when it comes to numbers and math, however it may seem “too cool” to get good grades and to apply yourself. Middle school is where students generally begin to find themselves, and a determined teacher can help to motivate students to choose the right path. A teacher’s responsibility is to make sure they have done everything in their power to help their students succeed. This means reaching out to parents, changing lessons to fit the needs of the unmotivated students in the classroom, and changing your classroom management strategies to help engage and excite the students.
With little to no parental support or guidance for many boys in the classroom, a male math teacher may be exactly what these boys need. But will these same strategies work with a female math teacher? References: Charles, C. M. (2008). Twentieth-Century Pioneers in Classroom Discipline. Building Classroom Discipline (Ninth Edition). Boston: Pearson. Conti, R. , Collins, M. A. , & Picariello, M. L. (2001).
The impact of competition on intrinsic motivation and creativity: Considering gender, gender segregation and gender role orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 31(8), 1273- 1289 Grossman, H. (2004). Classroom behavior management for diverse and inclusive schools. (3rd edition). Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. Murdock, T. , Miller, A. (2003).
Teachers as Sources of Middle School Students’ Motivational Identity: Variable-Centered and Person-Centered Analytic Approaches. The Elementary School Journal, 103(4), 383-399. Stein, S. L. (1993). Young’s vision. The Mathematics Teacher, 86, 330-333.