How to Motivate Students with ST Math

When it comes to student engagement, the focus very often gets put on bringing students to the learning—getting them excited about a topic, a lesson or an activity. But when the method used to engage students is only superficial, that excitement can fade very quickly, and the deeper learning never happens. For engagement to be meaningful, students have to be motivated through the learning--the motivation must be intrinsic.        

In ST Math, a visual instructional program that builds a deep conceptual understanding of math, students are intrinsically motivated to continue learning for the sake of learning.

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What Student Engagement Looks Like in ST Math

When students don’t want to stop playing, and they are actively learning, it’s a good sign of student engagement that is dynamically active.

There is a difference between being engaged in the entertainment side of a piece of edtech software and being engaged in the learning itself.

ST Math does not alternate between being a game and math program; the game is integrated into the math explorations with the puzzle format. This promotes intrinsic motivation.

How do you get students to this point of deeper learning and engagement? Our research suggests the following:

  1. Let students know it’s okay to struggle and fail.
  2. Provide physical manipulatives and thinking paper.
  3. Help students set personal and classroom goals.
  4. Let students engage in academic discourse.
  5. Celebrate success.

Here are examples of how educators are using these strategies to amplify student engagement and intrinsic motivation in ST Math:

Embrace Productive Struggle to Build Student Engagement

When you give students the opportunities to fail and try again with different strategies and use different tools, you help them actively engage in their own learning

When given the space to productively struggle and think deeply, ST Math educators see that students are determined to succeed.

Use Manipulatives to Support Thinking

When educators let students use manipulatives and paper, students can see the puzzle in multiple ways and plan different strategies.

This blog post details many ideas on clever ways to use manipulatives with ST Math.

Help Students Set Personal and Classroom Goals

When students set their own goals, they take ownership and have a stake in their own learning. In ST Math, goals can include time on task, number of puzzles, percent progress, explaining your solutions and more. Learn more about goal setting for intrinsic motivation using ST Math.

Engage Students in Academic Discourse

Student engagement doesn’t always mean a quiet classroom.

ST Math helps students learn math conceptually, based on neuroscience research. Creator of ST Math, Dr. Matthew Peterson, recently shared his findings around the four neural subsystems of learning. One of the neural systems is academic discourse. ST Math educators observe that students are compelled  to talk about the puzzles with one another. 

Celebrate Success  

When educators praise students for reaching goals, persevering, helping others and trying different strategies, they are rewarding those behaviors. This can reinforce the intrinsic motivation to continue learning!

Bonus: Extend the Engagement

ST Math is a personalized learning program, which means students take their own path and pace to mastery of the concepts. But that doesn’t mean the learning has to end when some of your students reach 100%.

In addition to optional objectives and challenge games in the program, ST Math Central houses a list of ideas to extend the learning.

ST Math educators continuously impress us with how they embrace ST Math by incorporating elements into other projects and activities, such as this JiJi robot!

Interested in learning more about ST Math?

Play ST Math Games

Calli Wright

About the Author

Calli Wright was the Marketing Manager at MIND Research Institute. She loves playing and designing board games, which she often talks about on twitter @CalliWrights.


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