Using Student Contracts To Increase Success In Math (4 of 5)

April 29, 2010 at 11:36 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 changes in my student contracts that I experimented with in following semesters. 

Semester 2

In the second semester, I bumped up the minimum test average to 80%. I also required a minimum score of 75% on our end of semester SLO assessment. This contract was less effective, with 35-40% of the students satisfying the contract.

Students felt less confident about averaging 80% for the whole semester, as well as being able to pass the end of course SLO assessment. I had many students violate the contract very early in the semester.

Overall it was still successful, just not as successful as the first contract. I needed to remember that lack of confidence really affects motivation at the developmental math level.

Semester 3

 I was participating in a pilot common final project, so I could not use being excused from the final exam as an incentive. Students needed to score 70% or higher on the final in order to pass the class. I offered 2% off of that requirement for students that met

  • 100% on all MML HW
  • 80% quiz average
  • 70% test average
  • 2 or fewer absences

Students who met all 4 conditions got a bonus 2%, meaning that they only needed to score 60% on the final to pass the class. This contract was not as successful either. Students, on day one, don’t see much difference between scoring 60% or 70% on a final exam that is 4 months away. Early “buy in” was low, and the number of students who met all 4 criteria was not as high as the first semester. This contract was not as effective because students did not see the payoff as an incentive and they told me that they were not thinking that far ahead.

Semester 4

 I started to incorporate contracts for each exam. In Prealgebra and Elementary Algebra I offered a 10 point bonus on each test for students that met the following requirements.

  • 100% on all MML HW
  • 85% on each MML quiz
  • No more than 1 absence
  • 4 or more hours in our tutorial center or computer lab
  • Completion of all study skills activities, including a notebook check

Students that met all of the test contracts would add 5% to their overall grade. I’m not sure how your classes go, but I have very few students who have an overall grade of 65-69%, so I was not worried about students passing because of the extra credit points. Yes, it did take students from C’s to B’s or B’s to A’s, but I’m not concerned with that. I worry about whether students pass and understand the material well enough to be successful in the next course.

These short-term contracts worked well. A student who had a poor exam would start following the contract for the next test. In a semester long contract once you opted out you were done. By incorporating the study skills activities into the contract, especially the student notebook, I helped my students to develop the skills they needed for future success. Students were more likely to participate because it was a short-term committment. Once they met a contract and had a successful exam it was easier to make the effort on future contracts.


In the next installment I will summarize my thoughts on using student contracts, and share ideas for you to start incorporating them into your classes.

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 2 in the series – Results.

– George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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

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