Motivation and Monitoring for Success!

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The bottom line was, I had a room full of students who struggled with, and many who hated, Algebra. These students had little number sense, minimal problem solving skills, and an aversion to persevering through a complex task.  A core group spent a good deal of time in our in-school suspension room, and most wanted to socialize and check their social media accounts instead of doing math. I realized very quickly that my enthusiasm, encouragement and clear purpose for this class (what a great opportunity – you can prep for the EOC and erase your low Algebra grade!) was not as motivating to them as it would have been to me.

Avatars, Charity & Pizza Parties – When we talked about our class reward at the beginning of the year, it occurred to me that one single approach was not going to encourage all of my students. All of them liked building their avatars, most students seemed motivated to contribute to charity, and some were looking forward to pizza, but I knew I’d need some way to encourage each student to work hard every day.

THINK 30 Sheet –I love the Think 30 sheet that my Instructional Coach provided. I bought a bunch of little heart and star stickers from the dollar store, and applied a sticker for every completed lesson. I highlighted it if it was an on-grade level lesson.

I would have had the students put their own stickers on and highlight on-grade level lessons, but they were way too cool for that. They were not too cool to care about their progress though, as was evidenced by them asking for their sheets at the beginning of class if I didn’t pass them out right away. They claimed they needed their log-ins and passwords that were written at the top…all school year long.

Think Through Math Motivational Contests – When I received an email about an upcoming contest, I saved the information.  I linked it to my lesson plans so I would remember to announce it in class, post it for students to read, and add it to my web page for parents to view.

The Bulletin Board and Certificates of Achievement – I printed their first certificate for an on-grade level lesson and posted it on our Think Through Math board. To save colored ink, I printed four blank certificates to a page, cut them out, and added their on-grade level lessons. The day they arrived to class and found their avatars posted on the bulletin board, made their day. My students had a great time looking at each other’s creations. I wasn’t sure if the board was motivating to them until I heard some students comment that their list was growing.

The Data Sheets – For those students who work better with data and goal setting, I created a data reporting tool. I had students go into their own course, their test history screens and record their Algebra grades and End of Course test scores from past school years. They used that information to determine if they would benefit from grade replacement, and how close they were to passing the EOC.

With three test administrations in the school year, this was important information. I met with each student and reviewed their information, then helped them make personal goals for themselves for the year. I copied the data sheets onto the back of the Think 30 sheets, so they could review their data and goals every day. We created the sheets after the first EOC in September, then updated the sheets after the second test in December. With the third attempt in April, I encouraged students to review their goals in January, February and March.

The Bottom Line – TTM provides a lot of motivation through the points students earn, videos about the program, avatars, contests, earned parties, donations to charity, and messages teachers can send from the real time feed. I was grateful that all of these things were in place.
Six out of sixteen students who tested raised their scores by a level, four passed the test, and 13 showed growth, with a median increase of 23 points overall.

The gains were impressive, and I told the students to focus on their point increase, and to keep working on Think Through Math through the summer when they can take the test one more time.

Kerri Rohrer, Math Teacher, Seminole High School, Pinellas County Schools, Florida