Q&A #182

Motivating students

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From: Mary Lou (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: May 01, 1998 at 17:30:00
Subject: Re: Motivating students

Terri, if I had the answer to your question I would the teacher of the world! 
Motivation is something that a person has to have him or herself. 

I think that teachers can interest students and motivate them. You have not stated 
what it is that you teach. I will imagine that you are teaching Algebra 1.  
Imagine the situation that the entire student body on the first day of school had 
to stand all at one time in the gym, and introduce themselves and when the last 
person was finished they would all sit down. The question might be: how long
would this take for 1000 students?

To answer the question, do an experiment. Choose three students. Using a stopwatch 
have someone time in seconds the length of time it takes for the three to stand 
up, recite each of their names in sequence and sit down. Choose five more students 
and have all eight of them do the experiment. Then choose 7 more students and 
repeat the process. Perhaps do the entire process with 20. 

Now you are going to make some assumptions:
   1. the  time for the standing and sitting of the 3, 8, 15 and 20 students is 
      the same independent of the number standing and sitting. We will call this 
      the average time.  

   2. The length of time for each student to recite his/her name will be averaged.

Using the number of students as the input and the length of time as the output, 
graph the data, look at what behavior you observe, and try to write a rule for the 
behavior dependent upon the number of students. What you are looking for is a 
linear function: y = mx + b  where m is the average time to say a person's name 
and b is the average time to stand up and sit down.

Once this is done you can project for the entire school, you can find for the 
entire class and you have various options. What if you didn't stand up and sit 
down? How long would it take? Suppose each person stood up, stated their name, and 
then sat down before the next person stood up, etc. Ask the kids for ideas. What 
other activities might be investigated like this? As the teacher, you have to make 
sure that the mathematics is produced!

My overall answer to you: find problem situations that engage the students, and 
use these as your starting point. Anything that involves money and the lottery is 
a good subject.

Hope you have a good time.

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