The Effect of Internal Motivation – Introduction to The Student Star Series | JF10 | CC BY

This is the introduction to The Student Stars Series. See a list of all the stars here.

At some point I asked my best friend’s son to do some videos for me. He’s a super cutie, a ham and pretty awesome at discovering math.

I told him I would set him up with an email account, WordPress access, YouTube account and profile. We would officially introduce him as a contributor and it would be great.

No pressure.

Many months later I realize I’ve successfully scare him off.

Enter Ellie, stage left.

A friend and homeschool mom on Twitter asked for thoughts on getting her daughter more excited about math. We conversed a bit and she and her daughter, Ellie, made a decision. They determined that making videos helping others teach and learn math might be the key to getting Ellie to connect with her inner mathematician.

“SWEET!” I thought. Not only is Ellie going to realize how much she loves this stuff, but I might just get a star!

I was much more careful with this star!

Internal motivation is much more powerful than external. Adding too much external motivation will kill internal motivation.

Ellie’s getting her spot, and I’m getting a star. But I’m not going to overdo it. So much is riding on this. It’s not just about getting someone amazing to contribute to MathFour – this is about Ellie’s math education too.

When she loves doing it, she’ll do it more. If she HAS to do it, or is rewarded externally too much, she’ll stop.

It’s not just about doing videos – it’s also about teaching math.

Internal motivation is essential in math learning, too. Make it all about the grades and there won’t be inherent curiosity and learning. If you force your child to move on to the next section because that’s THE SCHEDULE, then all the passion and curiosity that might have been growing with that section could be lost.

If you can, let the curiosity of your children guide where the math learning is going.

Do they want to move on or slow down? Then do it. After 12 years they will get all the math they need.

Do they want to skip a whole section? No problem – it’ll be in next year’s book and you can get to it then.

Do they want to bake cookies instead of reading the textbook? Sure – just double the recipe and squeeze in some math there.

Do they want to make videos instead of doing another worksheet? Let them be a Student Star!

Do you have a Student Star?

I’d love to feature more stars. If your child wants to make videos helping other teach and learn math, encourage them. And send me a note via Twitter, email or leave a comment here!

Feature image on homepage by Tamsin Slater on, CC BY SA.

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