Using Student Contracts To Increase Success In Math (3 of 5)

April 28, 2010 at 7:54 am 1 comment

On Monday I started a series based on my student contracts. I used a contract to reward student based on persistence, performance, and attendance. 

Today I share the benefits I observed from using student contracts. I also include the results of a student survey designed to measure student feelings on the contracts and MyMathLab. 


 Here are some benefits of this approach. 

Students remediate themselves.
One of the reasons for assigning homework is that we want students to work on material they haven’t mastered yet. When they struggle with a particular topic, we want them to seek out help. MML gives students the immediate feedback that will help students identify their problem areas, and also gives numerous support options to help them to self-remediate.

Students learn proper notation.
Because students have to type their answers using correct notation, their pencil and paper work is stronger in general.

Students form bonds with classmates.
I had students visiting the Math Tutorial Center and Computer Labs in small groups to help each other out with their homework.

 Students work ahead.
I often post assignments the day before they are covered in class, and several of my students work on the assignments before I even discuss them in class.

Students put in an enormous amount of time and effort.
We know that effective time on task is a key indicator of success in a math class. Here’s a breakdown of the average amount of time spent working on homework and quizzes for the entire class over the first 4 exam periods.

Test 1: 6 hours, 46 minutes
Test 2: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Test 3: 10 hours, 40 minutes
Test 4: 12 hours, 37 minutes

 Students learn where their “issues” are and ask for help.
Students find out where their trouble spots are in a timely fashion. They email questions to the instructor, ask for help from tutors and instructors in the Math Tutorial Center and Computer Labs, bring questions to class and my office, and help each other.

 Students do their homework the way we want them to – they want to make sure they understand before it’s time for the quiz.
When my students have trouble with a particular problem, they take notes on that problem in case they face it on a later quiz or test.

How Do Students Feel?

They like it – they really like it! I gave an anonymous survey to 50 students who were in attendance one month before the end of the semester. 

Question 1: How much time and effort have you devoted to this course, compared to your previous math courses? 

Much Less   1  
Slightly Less   2  
Same   9  
Slightly More   15  
Much More   23  

38 of the 50 students (76%) reported that they had devoted more time and effort that they had in their previous math courses.

 Question 2: How much has the grading policy affected the time and effort you have devoted to this course?

Not At All   2  
Somewhat   6  
A Lot   34  

48 of the 50 students (96%) reported that the grading policy had at least somewhat affected the time and effort the devoted to the course. 34 students (68%) replied the grading policy affected their effort “A Lot”.


Question 3: How much has MyMathLab increases your understanding of the material in this course?

Not At All   0  
Somewhat   16  
A Lot   25  

49 of the 50 students (98%) reported that the use of MyMathLab had at least somewhat increased their understanding of the material in the course. 25 students (50%) replied “A Lot”.

 Question 4: How has your performance on exams been compared to your expectations prior to the beginning of the semester?

Much Worse   4  
Slightly Lower   6  
Same   13  
Slightly Higher   15  
Much Higher   12  

27 of the 50 students (54%) reported that their performance on the exams was higher than they expected. Only 10 students (20%) reported that they were doing worse on the exams than they had expected.

 Question 5: If you had to take the final exam in this course, what grade would you expect to earn on that exam?

A   6  
B   22  
C   19  
D   2  
F   1  

47 of the 50 students (94%) felt that they would pass the final exam if they were to take it, which shows a dramatic increase in their own confidence.

 Question 6: If given a choice, would you take your next math course using MyMathLab?

Yes   45  
No   5  

90% of the students indicated that they would use MyMathLab in their next math course if they were given a choice.

I still use student contracts in my classes. I have made some changes, and will discuss some of those changes in Thursday’s installment. 

I hope you find this series on student contracts to be helpful. If you have any questions, or experience with student contracts that you would like to share, I encourage you to leave a comment, or reach me through the contact page at my web site – Come back tomorrow for part 3 in the series – Benefits. 

– George 

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – 


Entry filed under: General Teaching, Math, MyMathLab, study skills. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Last Weekend – CalADE & MML Forum aty CSUN Using Student Contracts To Increase Success In Math (4 of 5)

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