Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Motivation Equation

The heart and soul of student learning is intrinsic motivation. And no one does a better job of describing this phenomenon than Kathleen Cushman in her refreshingly short and web-based book "The Motivation Equation" which is available to read online or download for free.

The table of contents gives you a nice snapshot of what the book contains. Here are the chapter titles:

Contents
Preface. In which we meet Ned Cephalus, his teachers, and their learning scientist friends
Introducing the Motivation Equation. In which we consider what learners value and their expectations of success
Chapter 1. Make sure we’re okay. In which teachers make it safe to risk a try
Chapter 2. See that it matters. In which students discover a reason to care
Chapter 3. Keep it active! In which fun, play, and surprise create a culture of curiosity
Chapter 4. Get us to stretch. In which students see in different ways and reach beyond their grasp
Chapter 5. Act like a coach. In which teachers guide practice and reinforce new skills
Chapter 6. Ask us to use it. In which students explain, teach, present, and perform what they learn
Chapter 7. Give us time to reflect. In which students think back on their learning and growth
Chapter 8. Have us make plans. In which students figure out where to go next
Appendix 1. Teachers and their lessons. In which teachers use a protocol to study learner motivation
Appendix 2. Resources. In which we offer practical resources for teachers

If you only have time for one chapter read Introducing the Motivation Equation (linked above) to experience what this is all about.

Though I loved the book, it is not easy for a teacher to implement given the constraints of a typical classroom. But its definitely a worthwhile goal on the road to the Wannado curriculum*.

*In my book, I define “wannado” as an excited form of “want to do.” For example, I wanted to do my math homework, fearing the consequences of not doing it, whereas I always would wannado (play) baseball in whatever form it appeared. The same for having to do something. “Haftado” is an extreme, distasteful form of “have to do.”

“Instead of making kids learn math, let’s make math kids will learn.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Conclusions from the Wannado (Math) Curriculum (a recently published book written by Ihor Charischak)

It’s entirely possible to fall in love with mathematics if the context is
right, like the “perfect storm,” where all the elements come together.
Beyond the day-to-day usefulness of math, mathematics can be
dynamic, fascinating, and empowering. Intrinsic motivation should
drive learning. The math curriculum should be open-ended and
allow for student and teacher creative flairs. There is a place for
teachers and students to be partners in their learning enterprise, so
that creating stories can bring a new life to what students would otherwise say is boring.

Weaving other subjects into the teaching of math is an incredibly powerful way to engage student imagination and help them to see math’s relevance to the real world. It’s fine to be able to solve an algebraic equation, but if students have no idea what it’s used for […], then what’s the point? Without a context, it’s just “mental gymnastics.” You don’t have to go far to see the math in history, science, music, and art. The list is endless.

Currently, story-based learning adventures are not part of most math curriculums. The focus remains on the “haftado” curriculum (e.g., passing through all the gates on the royal road to calculus, where rewards are mostly extrinsic). However, one can invent—or better yet, reinvent—mathematics. The shift from a “haftado” to a “wannado” curriculum does not need to deprive students of the basic skills they need to be successful. Rather, it provides the perfect context for understanding the relevancy of those skills and the motivation to learn them. If kids “wannado” the projects, they will learn whatever hard stuff they encounter in order to accomplish their project’s goals … just as they do when they play video games. We, as a math community, need to develop alternative routes for students with unique needs and skills. Technology opens the door for a whole host of alternatives. To keep the focus on math, it is imperative that technology be integral to the curriculum, rather than integrated. This is a subtle but important distinction because technology-based microworlds empower students to focus on getting to know powerful mathematical ideas seamlessly. I firmly believe that technology can transform teaching and learning environments and help students achieve beyond what is possible without it.