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

April 30, 2010 at 7:47 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 summarize my thoughts on using student contracts in your math class.

Setting Up Conditions

I build my contracts based upon the skills, behaviors, and tools that I feel are essential for students to learn and understand mathematics.
  • I believe that most of the learning takes place in the classroom, so I incorporate attendance into my contracts. For semester-long contracts, I set the maximum number of absences at 2 per semester. On contracts for individual exams, I set a maximum of 1 absence. Sure, we want our students to attend class because they want to learn and are inspired to be there each day, but I’m happy that my students are there even if an incentive such as the contract gets them there. Hopefully they will be inspired as the semester progresses.
  • I believe that persistence is a quality that should be encouraged and rewarded. I also believe that MyMathLab homework, when used effectively, helps students to learn and understand mathematics. That is why I always include 100% on all MyMathLab homework as a condition in each contract I use. Students have access to learning aids to help them understand – Help Me Solve This, Show An Example, Videos, Animations, Ask My Instructor. Students are also allowed to rework problems until they get them right. Requiring 100% on each MyMathLab homework assignment is a way I can measure student persistence while at the same time helping my students to learn.
  • Since my students must take their tests without these MyMathLab resources, I include a clause on MyMathLab quizzes. I give cumulative quizzes at the midpoint and end of each chapter. The quizzes do not allow access to the learning aids. I allow my students to take each quiz as many times as they would like, again encouraging persistence. I have noticed that there is a strong correlation between MyMathLab quiz scores and test scores, and I think this is because students remediate themselves on problems they are struggling with. I usually require an 80% average on quizzes in my contracts.
You can build a contract on any behaviors and tools that you would like. Make “attending a review session” a condition. Or “spend x hours in the tutorial lab”. Incorporate study skills activities, volunteer activities, … The possibilities are endless. Decide what you value and work it in.


The most successful contract I ever used was the one that allowed students to take a final cumulative assignment instead of taking the final exam. Developmental math students have a great deal of anxiety about taking a final exam, and this contract allowed them, through hard work, to take an alternative final assessment.

I have also found that giving bonus points on exams works really well on individual test contracts. Students see an immediate reward, and as it turns out improve their scores by more than 10 points through their hard work

What other rewards can you offer? How about the ability to use a note card during exams? Or the ability to skip one problem on the test? There are so many options, you just have to find one that your students will value enough to participate.

You might even want to consider a reward for the entire class. It could go a long way toward creating a community of learners, which can only improve learning and understanding.


I hope you consider incorporating student contracts into your class. I believe you will find that they can have a positive effect on your students’ understanding and success. What do students, in your opinion, need to do in order to be successful? Work those into your contract’s conditions. Then find a reward or payoff that will encourage students to “buy in”. The contract strategy can be customized to fit your needs and the needs of your students.
I hope that you found 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 –
– 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 (4 of 5) MyMathLab Quizzes

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Math James  |  December 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    There are just so many ways to learn math! Appreciate the post.


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