How to Promote Positive Student Attitude in Math Class


How to Bring Out the Best in Your Math Students

Think back to your experience from elementary or secondary math class. What do you remember?

For me, I don’t recall a classroom that was buzzing with energy, engaging or exciting in any way. Sit down, copy a note and get some homework completed was the general procedure for most math classes. Don’t get me wrong, I had some great teachers as well. One that would always add funny sketches to his notes, another that would juggle chalk and then blow into his hands like he was ready to throw dice, and I even had a math teacher and his wedding band play at my wedding. Great teachers, even though they used a traditional approach to teaching. This was a time before the three-part lesson and before anyone questioned the idea of focusing on procedure and memorization.

What Did These Great Teachers Have?

Promoting positive student attitude in math class begins with the teacher. If I stand up infront of my class and lead a lesson without any sort of passion or energy, how can I expect the same from my students? Many staff rooms are filled with conversations about how this student didn’t do this or that student has a horrible attitude, yet we never consider analyzing ourselves and how we look to our students. Have we considered that these very students we speak of in the staff room may be having a similar conversation where the tables are turned?

My favourite teachers always brought positive energy into the classroom and engaged students in the ways they knew best. Modelling a love for math and excitement for learning.

How to Promote Positive Student Attitude in Math Class

  1. Never say “I was never very good at math.”

    Often times, students have formed an opinion on mathematics because of something heard from family, friends or even the media. Our job is to build student confidence in mathematics and eliminate the math-phobia that exists in North America. Regardless of whether you had a painful experience learning math, you must show students that you are confident and willing to share your expertise with them.

    Suggesting that you performed poorly in mathematics and will try to make it as easy as possible is simply not an option to promote a positive attitude in math class.

  2. Be a source of positive energy for your students.

    Educators have 30 students (or more) coming into their classroom everyday, each with their own issues. While it would be great if every student walked in with a huge smile on their face and a pleasant “hello,” this is simply not the case on most days.

    Students breakup with their first loves, friends get in fights and kids run late because their older siblings wouldn’t get out of the shower. Josh may not have any sleep because his parents stayed up all night party. Cindy might live at a group home and not have much to smile about.

    Regardless of your classroom dynamic, you have to do your best to be welcoming and provide the positive energy that your students may not receive elsewhere. Positive energy is contagious and you will notice a difference over time.

  3. Bring the real world into your math classroom.

    The Water Fountain Problem | Real World MathematicsAre you bored teaching the same lesson on Pythagorean Theorem for the 15th time? Maybe it is time to try and apply right angle triangles to the world around you. What about two students taking two paths from one part of the schoolyard to the other side of the school? Or, maybe you’d like to try the Taco Cart problem by Dan Meyer.

    Regardless of how you go about it, make the math apply to the world around you and your students will naturally be more drawn to participate.

  4. It’s our job to engage learners; not their job to learn.

    Students didn’t sign up to spend 6 hours a day, 30 hours a week, or 1,164 hours per year sitting in an uncomfortable desk at school, so why do we expect them to be completely engaged and excited for our class when it simply isn’t engaged or exciting?

    On the other hand, if you work hard on a lesson that you feel would be engaging and the students aren’t engaged, don’t take it personally. Every lesson is an experiment, so just be willing to make the appropriate adjustments and try again with a positive outlook.

  5. Always ask yourself: “Would I find value in this?”

    It can be easy to think negatively when your class doesn’t seem to be engaged in your lesson. Reflecting on your lessons and making an effort to adjust them to increase engagement will surely improve the attitudes of your students and as a result, you’ll receive a positive energy boost as well!

Educators endure trying times on a regular basis. I hope these tips will assist you as you look to promote a positive student attitude in your math classroom.

Have something to add to the list?

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Kyle Pearce

About Kyle Pearce

Secondary Math Teacher and Intermediate Math Coach with the Greater Essex County District School Board leading a Ministry funded 1:1 iPad project called Tap Into Teen Minds. I currently teach at Tecumseh Vista Academy K-12 in the morning and focus on duties for the Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry (MYCI) Project in the afternoon.



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