Can Rewards Really Motivate Your Child to Practice When they Need Math Help?

Last Updated on August 31, 2021 by Thinkster

Is there a way to create a system to reward your child and motivate them to practice math? Here’s four steps to using rewards for math help:

The parenting world is usually split when it comes to using rewards to get children to follow the right behavior.

Whether that’s a trip to the toy store when your child gets a stellar report card or extra video game time when they complete their chores, a little incentive always seems to improve motivation.

So is there a trick to using rewards to motivate children to practice math and seek out math help?

It’s All About Positive Reinforcement

In the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough brings up a study conducted by Calvin Edlund in 1969 in Northern California.

Edlund chose nearly 80 children who all liked candy between the ages of 5- and 7-years old and divided them in two groups.

All the children took the standard version of the Stanford-Binet IQ test. The children were all pretty evenly matched in IQs when the results came back.

Seven weeks later, the children were asked to take a similar test.

The children in the experimental group were told they would receive one M&M candy for every answer they got correct. The children would not receive an M&M if they got an incorrect answer.

When the children were given the test with this reward-based incentive, researchers noticed an average 12 point IQ leap.

The simple knowledge of receiving a reward, in this case the M&M or candy, may have focused the children’s energy so they answered the similar questions with increased attention.

Is this motivation boost short term?

Dr. Virginia Shiller, a psychologist and instructor at the Yale Child Study Center and coauthor of the book Rewards for Kids, tells PBS that rewards go a long way to help parents teach their children new habits.

According to Shiller, the key to building motivation is in how you give your children those incentives.

How to Motivate Your Child to Solve Math Problems Using Rewards

Using rewards to motivate your child isn’t so much about the specific reward. It’s more about the system in which your child uses to grow that matters more.

When your child knows what’s expected of them, knows what they need to do, and gets rewarded for doing so, they will start to create new, beneficial habits for themselves.

They may even apply these steps to other areas of their life, like sports or learning a new instrument.

Here’s how to use rewards to motivate your child to practice math:

1. Set an appropriate, reachable goal

Aim for unrealistic goals and it won’t matter what you promise your child in the way of a reward; they’ll give up before they even try if it’s out of their wheelhouse.

In other words, don’t give your child 50 math worksheets to complete in 5 days when they need math help.

Set realistic goals for your child based on their skill level and they’ll actually want to achieve them. So maybe more like 5 math worksheets aced in 5 days.

Only set one goal at a time to avoid overloading your child with too much. If there’s too much on their plate they won’t have the energy or motivation to even start.

2. Create a strategy to achieve those goals

Brainstorm with your child about the best strategy to reach the goals you both set.

Does that mean an extra 20 minutes of online math tutoring every day or 3 hours of math help every Thursday?

You can’t hold your child to achieving a goal if you don’t provide the roadmap to help them get there. Give your child a strategy and let them run with it.

3. Measure and praise the effort

It will be easy to count how many math worksheets your child completes, but grading them will take a bit more time. Always aim to give your child immediate feedback so they correct their mistakes before their bad habits develop further.

When your child completes their goal, try not to praise them for “being smart” or “having a head for math.”

While these may in fact be true, it devalues the hard work your child puts forth to achieve their goals. It places more emphasis on your child’s traits instead of their hard work.

Praise the effort and your child will be less likely to walk away from a difficult problem because an answer doesn’t “just come naturally” to them.

4. Set and follow through with an appropriate reward

Agree with your child on an appropriate reward and they’ll be much more inclined to work hard to snag it.

On the other hand, if you select a reward they couldn’t care less about, they won’t have any motivation or incentive to try at all.

Options for rewards include:

  • Extra play time outside
  • Trip to a new park
  • Visit to a museum or planetarium
  • Shopping outing with friends
  • Art, music, or yoga class

Always follow through with the reward when your child reaches their goal and you’ll create excitement and motivation to achieve the next one.

Wondering how you’ll be able to put all four of these steps in place for your child?

How We Do Rewards at Thinkster Math

We combine all four steps to help your child achieve their math goals with true motivation.

Thinkster has:

Rewards and Medals to set specific goals for your child to reach

Every time your child completes a math worksheet, they’ll be given points.

These points act as visual motivation for your child. It shows all their accomplishments and gives them a rough idea of how much more practice they still need to put in.

There’s no nagging by you or your child’s tutor. It’s as simple as a video game trophy room.

Thinkster RewardsWhen your child logs in to Thinkster, they’ll be able to see where they rank (in points) with other Thinkster kids in their own country and around the world from the Leaderboard Screen:

Thinskter LeaderboardYour child can then head over to the Rewards Screen to see how many points they’ve accumulated. That’s also where they can decide how they’d like to be rewarded.

Thinkster Math Students Earn Gift Cards Just for Completing Math Worksheets

Your child completes worksheets for points.

For every 1,500 points your child earns, they’ll receive $1 in gift cards, up to a maximum of $5 every month. That means your monthly goal of 7,500 points will score $5 in gift cards.

Thinkster RewardsThinkster GiftcardsThinkster will also accrue your unredeemed gifts so your child can stack up gift card amounts. And you can change your card selection at any time.

Your child will earn a tangible reward which they can use to buy whatever’s on their wish list. This is a great way for children to start tracking their worksheets, earning points, and working towards their own gift card redemption goals.

Plus, you won’t feel the need to buy an expensive reward since your child will understand that they’re spending only what they’ve actually earned.

Check out the Rewards Screen to see the available gift cards you’ll be able to choose from. One of them may be your child’s favorite store (gasp!).

Let Thinkster Take Care of the Rewards and Watch Your Child’s Motivation for Math Improve

You have the best intentions and rewarding your child for doing a job well done only seems natural. But there are better ways to instill motivation than bribing your child with candy and then holding them accountable when they don’t meet their goals.

With your free 7-day trial of Thinkster, our online math tutors and AI will set skill-specific goals for your child to reach — and give them the specific parameters to do so.

Your child will be so eager to score points, compete on the global leaderboard, and earn gift cards for their favorite stores, they’ll be naturally motivated to practice math more.

Start your free 7-day trial of Thinkster today and meet our expert online math tutors now!

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