Do you have frustrated and unmotivated students in your math class?  

Or perhaps you have students that have stalled in their math fact fluency because they just don't care.

If you do, then you already sense the need to motivate your students. I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to inspire my students to put in the required effort to become fluent in basic math facts and thereby not be prepared for the next grade level math.

The missing ingredient in my teaching was motivation, but not anymore!  I have sprinkled a variety of motivations throughout my math resources. Simple to use and effective!  

Motivation: What is it & How can I use It?

Let's look at motivation and how it can increase performance and decrease frustration in our students as they master math facts.  First, the definition of ‘motivation'. 


  1. the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.Similar: motive, motivating force, incentive, stimulus, stimulation, inspiration, impulse, inducement, incitement, spur
  2. the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

Mastering basic math facts can be very challenging and frustrating to many of our students. Motivation can ease the learning process, make the difference that leads your students to their math fact fluency.  

For those who better understand math concepts and facts, motivation can encourage them to push further, take it to the next level, and gain a deeper understanding.  

Similarly, those struggling to master basic math facts, motivation  can that spark that moves moves them toward mastery.

More wonderful benefits for motivated students is that their stamina and resilience will increase, so that they will be able to progressively spend more time with the practice that they need to move them toward mastery.  And research shows that their cognitive processing is also enhanced!

There are two different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic and extrinsic methods can be used concurrently to ensure that each student in our class is motivated.

Intrinsic Motivation Strategies

Intrinsic rewards are those that come from within.  Intrinsic motivation stems from someone wanting the pleasure of figuring something out or accomplishing a task. Self-satisfaction and determination is predominant.

People want to do the task because it is enjoyable to them. There aren’t any rewards, badges, or accolades. Rather, internal motivation is key that drives their progress.  We are going to take a closer look at three ways to develop intrinsic motivation in your students:

  • growth mindset
  • student data tracking
  • student goal setting

Each one of these contribute to your students' math fact fluency.  Here are some ideas to develop intrinsic motivation in your students:

1.  Growth Mindset

First, a growth mindset is a perfect example of intrinsic motivation.  Having a growth mindset allows students to see that they actually have the capacity to learn the material.  

Knowing they can unlock their brain to achieve new results, students will be inspired to put in the needed effort to learn. 

Check out this post with 4 Keys to Developing a Growth Mindset in Math for more ideas on nurturing a growth mindset in your students. 

Get these in the FREE ‘Motivation Tool Kit’(download link below)

The use of “I Can” statements can also help develop a growth mindset in our students.  Declaring intent to accomplish something not only motivates a student to perform but it builds confidence along the way.

I combined ‘I Can Statements along with the addition and subtraction mental math strategies in the math mats and mini lessons packs.

2. Student Data Tracking

Secondly, providing an engaging method for students to track their progress on their math fact fluency journey can help develop intrinsic motivation. As students track their own progress, they can be encouraged by their accomplishments which will then help propel them forward to master more.

I have included student tracking opportunities in all of my addition, subtraction, multiplication and division assessments. Students love the karate and superhero themes in these packs.

3 Student Goal Setting

A third great way to promote intrinsic motivation is to provide your students with opportunities to set their own goals. Student goal setting has been found to be a highly effective activity in increasing motivation.  At the bottom of all my math facts assessments, I intentionally included this opportunity for students to review their data and set small achievable goals that will help them become accountable for their own learning and perform faster in recalling the basic math facts. 

 Students review their corrected assessment and choose the facts that they do not know … YET! (Don't you just love that little 3-letter word?)

Extrinsic Motivation Strategies

Intrinsic motivation is also an important and effective way to help our students progress in math fluency, but it's not the only way to motivate.  

Let's take a look at extrinsic motivation and how it also can inspire our students on their learning journey to math fact mastery.

Extrinsic motivation uses external factors like rewards and consequences to determine behavior.  An extrinsically motivated person doesn’t necessarily work on something because they enjoy it. Instead, they expect something in return for their effort. Such extrinsic rewards can include badges, stickers, rewards, praise, and recognition.  

I have included many external motivations in my addition, subtraction, multiplication and division fact fluency programs.  Let's take a peek at a few highly successful ones that students love and respond enthusiastically to and made growth in their math fact fluency.

1. Reward Tags

Students become highly motivated to master their math facts when they know they will earn a belt or shield that shows that they mastered a skill or level.  The fun karate and superhero themes are familiar to the students and they are motivated to collect their belts and shields!

2. Clip Chart Tracking

The clip chart is another student-favorite extrinsic reward for tracking mastery of levels.  The interactive nature of moving their clothespin on the tracker makes it more fun and attainable.

As students master each level, they earn a karate belt and move their clip to the level.

3. Awards

Let’s not forget about awards.  Kids love recognition!  Student become highly motivated to master their math facts when they know they will receive an award and public recognition for their achievements.  You might want to hand these out once a week and make it a special time to celebrate each other's accomplishments.

4. Peers

Extrinsic motivation in class can also come from peers.  First, there is less pressure (and more fun) working with peers than formal instruction from a teacher.  Check out this post on interactive lessons with a partner.  Peers quizzing each other helps students with accountability.  Practicing fast math facts with a partner makes it more fun.  

Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator for students, working for the positive, or left undeveloped, it can lead to negative behaviors.  To help create positive peer pressure, we must teach our students the social skills of becoming positive encouragers for their classmates.  

In the partner math fact fluency activities I have added anchor charts with ideas to encourage their partners, both verbally and non-verbally.  I love saying, ‘Coaches, encourage your Speeders!' and then listening in on their great heartfelt words of encouragement!  Their faces tell the story – they believe that can do it!

If you would like to teach your students to encourage each other, I have a link below to get these in the FREE ‘Motivation Tool Kit'(download link below)

5. Learning Through Playing Games

Another motivator is learning through the playing of math games.  Math games provide an engaging way to get that needed repetitious practice.  Games can remove the boredom in becoming fluent in basic math facts.  Learning games also tap into intrinsic motivation because most students ‘want' to play a game for the sheer joy of playing!

To see more math games to use in your classroom, click on the images below. 

The partner pledge is included with each of these games. With this partner pledge, we are setting up our students to have a positive experience with the their partners in the math games – which in turn will increase their motivation and learning! 

You can post this in your class and have your students review it before they begin a game together.

I have included this in the FREE ‘Motivation Tool Kit'. (download link below)

addition and subtraction strategy games partner pledge

6. Encouragement from You!

How many stories have you heard adults share about how a teacher made the crucial difference in their life?  Your words of encouragement may be that spark that your children need to be motivated to push through challenging learning situations! Here are a few suggestions you may want to use with your students:

  • Show enthusiasm for the lessons you teach.
  • Praise students for using math strategies – regardless of whether the answer is correct or wrong.
  • Praise you students for their effort, not just for their achievement.
  • ‘You got this!'
  • ‘You will learn how to do this!'
  • ‘Embrace the challenge.'
  • ‘You can do tough things.'
  • ‘You can succeed with determination and effort.'
  • ‘Challenge yourself.'
  • ‘Mistakes are proof you are trying.'
  • ‘Refuse to give up until you are proud!'

Which Kind of Motivation Should I Use?

In conclusion, I suggest using a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to help motivate all your students and help them increase their math fact fluency!  

Some students may not initially be intrinsically motivated, but as a result of success resulting from extrinsic motivation, may become intrinsically motivated.

This increased level of motivation in your student will also alleviate your stress and concerns that some students may not prepared for their next grade level! 

I have purposefully added intrinsic and extrinsic motivations throughout all my math fact fluency resources.  Check them out by clicking on the pictures below:

If you would like to add some of these motivational activities to your math fact fluency time, you will want this  FREE ‘Motivation Tool Kit' I put together for you!  

Click below to get yours!

Learn proven strategies to motivate your elementary students to increase their math fact fluency in basic math facts: Addition & Multiplication. We look at intrinsic, such has growth mindset and extrinsic strategies (student goal setting and tracking). Free Motivation Tool Kit included. Inspire 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade students to master their basic facts. #mathfactfluency


This Motivation Tool Kit is in my FREE Resource Library.  Just fill out the form below and I will send the Key to the Resource Library.


My name is Peggy Means. I am a child of God and a retired elementary teacher. I loved teaching and creating engaging resources for my students. Now, I love sharing my resources and ideas with busy teachers around the world.

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