I have done small group math tutoring for standardized test for many years. Usually, I go into a school during the beginning of the Spring semester to help students close some learning gaps. Let’s face it; math comes easier for some than others. However, many who do poorly in math just need a little extra attention, instruction, and encouragement. That’s where I come into the picture. Ideally, the group is no larger than five. Normally, students are pulled from classes such as art and music for 30 to 45 min of math help. However, missing part of an Art or Music class can get old especially if math is not your favorite subject. So, it is essential to make learning math fun and memorable. Here are a few ideas I have used over the years in an elementary school setting.
**The best motivator is to show students they can learn to do what they thought they could not do. For instance, I identify multiplication facts that are challenging for them and teach them strategies to memorize them, as well as the multiplication algorithm.
**”Yes You Can! Effort Sheet – design a bingo type sheet; students earn stamps or stickers to place on sheet. A completed row earns certain privileges such as “shoes off” and a completed sheet earns a trip to the “treasure box.” Stickers and stamps are earned by following the problem solving steps and solving problems.
**Sticky Ball – this idea came from a workshop from CFISD. A sticky ball is covered with small suction cups. Thus, it sticks to the wall or chalkboard when it is thrown. Draw a table with rows and columns. Write incentives or silly acts they must do inside each box such as “hula hoop, sit in the teacher’s chair, receive an extra stamp or sticker, wear silly glasses.” Note: - instead of drawing a table, try drawing nested hearts in February for Valentine’s Day. This is a popular motivator especially for the boys. They like the opportunity to throw something.
**Connect Four– Students earn tokens by working problems. They can play their tokens after each problem or accumulate tokens to play at the end of the tutoring session. You’ll need a connect four game for every two students. Also, I have used the travel size Connect Four games which save space and money, but the quality is not as good. There’s a Connect 4 Spongebob Edition available too. As I was looking for this product, I came across another version, Connect Four by Four that allows 4 people to play. It has a two-sided grid with four different color checkers. There is not much difference in prices for any of the versions.
In summary, the incentives give the students something to work towards and to look forward to doing. Just remember, math requires practice, practice, practice, and there is no reason you can’t have fun at the same time. Once, you find an incentive the students like. They will work hard to play, and they will learn. Use a rubric or set rules they must follow for each problem to keep some students from rushing through problems. Let me know about your experiences with these or other incentives in the forum or send me an email.