How I Motivate My Students on That Thing You Aren’t Supposed to Talk About

I feel like it is kind of taboo to talk about motivating your students during state and MAP testing.  I mean obviously it is just a test blah blah blah.  In Kentucky we are in the midst of starting our new PGES evaluation system and will begin to be evaluated on student growth next school year.  So although I get that it is just a test I also realize that I really need my students to take the test seriously.  I work really hard to get my kids to take ownership and pride in their assessments.

Powerful Post-Its


Our MAP test is all about student growth.  The first year we gave MAP it seemed like every kid felt the need to ask if their score was “good” when they were finished.  I quickly figured out that I needed to give them something to work toward.  I started making individual goals for each student by looking at their past three scores.  This isn’t always the same as MAP’s student growth percentage but is really my goal for the student.  I also write them a little note on their post-it with their goal and then they stick them on their computer screen while they test.  When they finish their test they write their score on their post-it and turn it back into me.  Later, we have an awards ceremony in my class and every student that meets their goal is recognized like they won a grammy.  They love that part.

Dedicated to Greatness


When it comes time for my students to take their state assessment I really want the students to take ownership of their performance.  I started having students dedicate their performance on the test to someone who had inspired them or motivated them to do better in math.  I hang them all over the hallway during testing week and I love reading what they have to say.

Sometimes You Need Some Magic


(This is the point in the post that high school teachers should probably stop reading, you really have to live in middle school world to understand this one haha!)

Meet the magical math stick.  This dollar store purchase is a legend with the students that I teach every year.  It comes with its own legends of mythical math powers that are proven to take kids to proficiency and beyond and raise MAP scores more than 10 points.  Ridiculous I know, but trust me my kids love this thing.  It comes out of hiding twice a year for the spring MAP test and for our state K-Prep Assessment.  The kids love touching this thing for luck.  I only get to test 30 of my 120+ students during the state test but yet about 90% of them seek me out the morning of the test to get their two seconds of time with the magical math stick.  I know its hokey but they are 7th graders and they need a touch of magic from time to time.

In the End it is About Building Confidence

No matter what your method I really believe in the end it is all about giving that kids one last shot of confidence that you believe in them and that this is their time to shine.  How do you motivate your kids?


3 thoughts on “How I Motivate My Students on That Thing You Aren’t Supposed to Talk About

  1. Pingback: Goals « Math Mama

  2. Clearly teaching school kids has changed ALOT compared to when I was in school…um 40 yrs. ago in Canada.

    Sure I got report cards with A, B+, etc. And scores 75/100. I don’t recall assessing my own nor being motivated by the teacher in the way that you are doing.

    What motivated me for my education as a kid? Partially obeying a father who really wanted his children do well and get into university unlike he and mother. Even as young as 8 yrs. old, I knew we were poor. I was dimly aware how hard my parents lived to provide for 6 children. So I resolved I had to do better, so I wouldn’t be working the whole of my life in restaurant like my father or a mother who was technically oriented but never had the chance to go beyond Gr. 10 high school education in China.

    I really think the parents do also have a role in gently fostering motivation and accountability as their children grow up..

    Best wishes with your teaching work!

  3. This reminds me of the recent Bud Light ad campaign about sports fans and their rooting rituals – “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work”.

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