3 Ways to Get Elementary Students Excited About Math

Many students describe math as “boring” or “too hard.” While it’s important for students to engage with concepts and class activities that they don’t necessarily like, there are also ways to help students become more invested in the subject, such as using apps or manipulatives. Here are three ways to get elementary students excited about math this year:

1. Get elementary students excited about math by using manipulatives

Manipulatives—which can be any physical object—are a great way to encourage hands-on learning and to build excitement in the classroom. There are a number of pre-made tools you can buy (if your school doesn’t already have them), including:

  • Base ten blocks

  • Cuisenaire rods

  • Geometry peg boards

  • Pattern blocks

  • Unifix cubes.

These manipulatives help students engage with elementary math concepts like fractions and geometry. You can also use common items you might have around your house, such as dry beans. Using manipulatives will speak to your visual and tactile learners, and also help those who may struggle with attention.  

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2. Get elementary students excited about math by incorporating real-world examples

Real-world examples are one of the best ways to increase motivation in the classroom. Create story problems that revolve around day-to-day situations, especially those that are specific to your students and your community. For example, some textbook story problems may cite families driving cars, whereas your students may ride buses and subways, or vice versa. Adjust problems like these so the majority of your students can relate. For added fun, include classmates’ and teachers’ names, as well (and always in a positive manner).

If you’re able to plan a field trip, involve your students in the planning. For example, have students calculate how many buses they need for a specific number of students, how much tickets will cost for the whole grade to attend an event, etc. 

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3. Get elementary students excited about math by introducing math apps during class time

If you have technology in your classroom, check out the wide range of math apps available online. You might consider game-oriented apps, where students have to solve math problems as they participate in a story line—for example, Mystery Math Town and Sushi Monster. You might use apps that work as glorified manipulatives, like Counting Caterpillar and Peter Pig’s Money Counter.

Lastly, try apps that are not necessarily math-focused, but that encourage students to explain and show their thinking. Flipgrid is an example of a video platform where you can have students make videos showing how they got their answers, or make tutorials and sample lessons that could help other students.

If you’re able, try a mixture of these activities, in both small and large groups. If you can connect math to another subject (within your own classroom or by collaborating with another teacher), even better!

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