Offering incentives to memorize math facts

Anyone with children (in the U.S.A.) can tell you that math today is not taught like it was when we were in school. Instead of just memorizing a lot of facts, the kids learn the why behind the math equations. Teachers use number lines, grouping and many other methods before they expect the kids to memorize things like their multiplication table.

Jase is in the fourth grade and very much in need of memorizing his multiplication facts. It would help him tremendously with his division. But every time I mentioned memorizing the multiplication table, I have been meet with resistance.

It doesn’t matter that I tell him that it will make math easier or that I know in fifth grade they will have to have it memorized, he simply digs in his heels and tells me he doesn’t need to do it. (Speaking with another fourth grade mom I found that her son is the same way so at least I am not alone in this battle.)

So after many, many days of aggravation, I read something online about the futility of arguing with someone. Once they dig in their heels as Jase was doing, I would not be getting through to him no matter how many times I brought up the subject or how many different ways I tried. All it was going to do was make both of us annoyed.

This meant I needed to approach the problem in a different way. Now when Lexie had to wear an eye patch every day (for her amblyopia), we offered her a prize for wearing it. I collected items from the dollar store as well as some candy. Whenever she was done wearing the patch both she and Jase picked a prize. It worked well as an incentive.

IMG_4173I decide that I could do the same thing with Jase and learning his multiplication facts. Of course now that they are older, the prizes from the dollar store don’t hold the same appeal. So I selected prizes I thought would motivate them – an Oreo McFlurry from McDonalds, an Icee, a Kit Kat candy bar or a bag of Skittles, a Minecraft blind box or a new Minecraft skin. I even added a higher-priced prize of a Disney Infinity character just to make it more exciting.

And if he can get the whole multiplication table memorized by April, he will get a video game he has been wanting.

So when he learned all the twos (2 x 1 all the way through 2 x 12), he got to draw for a prize. Then he needs to do the same for his threes, fours, fives and so on up to 12. (I let him do them in any order that he wanted.)

I didn’t want Lexie to fill left out so when a note came home that she needed to work on her math (in particular subtraction), I made her a challenge all her own. She has to study and pass math tests to earn the same prizes that Jase earns.

Now I don’t always want to use this method to get my children to study as they don’t need any more toys in their overcrowded rooms and I would be afraid that it is setting them up to always expect rewards for working. But as a one-time thing, I am hoping it is worth it. I just want him to finally memorize his multiplication table!


One thought on “Offering incentives to memorize math facts

  1. Joan Lindgren says:

    Many teachers use a reward system of some sort with their students. Some teachers also explain it’s like how the parents go to work and get a paycheck for doing their work. As a former teacher, I used some of these rewards to help motivate the students. I personally see nothing wrong with it, provided it is not done so that the child expects it for everything they do.

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