In this study, different polymer grinding aids (GA) were synthesized from maleic anhydride (MA), polyethylene glycol (PEG), and acroleic acid (AA) under different process conditions, and their effects on the grindability and strength enhancement of cement were compared. The results showed that esterification was preferably conducted at a MA : PEG ratio of 1.2 : 1 at 105°C for 3 h with 1.5% catalyst; and copolymerization was preferably conducted at a MA-PEG : AA ratio of 1 : 1 at 85°C for 6 h. The number-average molecular weight of the polymer GAs was 12,964, the weight-average molecular weight was 18,156, and the polydispersity index was 1.40, respectively. The specific surface area of the samples obtained under the optimum condition increased by 32.87%, the flexural strength increased by 12.5% at 3 d and 16.67% at 28 d, and the comprehensive strength increased by 42.06% at 3 d and 22.19% at 28 d as compared with the control sample. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 41153.