The Du Bois Project of Oberlin has adopted three guiding principles:
- The less we say, the more they learn.
- Focus on the positive.
- Mathletes must earn their challenges.
The less we say, the more they learn
When a mathlete says “I need help” what they mean is: “I want attention.” Try: “OK, what challenge are you attacking?” “What do you know?” “What is the goal?” “Show me what you can do.” If all else fails, say: “Maybe you got the wrong challenge.” and offer them a lower level challenge.
If you help them complete a level 12, they will want a level 13 and they will “know” that they can’t complete a level 13 without help.
Focus on the positive.
- Focus on mathletes who are on-task. These are the children who are ready to learn at that instant. Most off-task behavior is attention seeking.
- Ask mathletes to explain their solutions. Children will learn more by talking about their achievements, than hearing about their failures. Students learn 10% of what they hear, 50% of what they do and 90% of what they teach. And, yes it is more fun to talk about your achievements than to hear about your failures.
Mathletes must earn their challenges
By controlling access to the challenges we protect the joy of leveling up.
The ideal challenge is one that is as hard as the mathlete can (and will) attack and solve. Finding that challenge is like finding the edge of a cliff. Closer is better. But, if we allow them a challenge that is too hard for them, we may well lose them for the rest of the day. Indeed, they may never return to Fraction Club.
Earning their challenges provides motivation to solve challenges (everyone likes to level up) while preventing them from being faced with a challenge that might shut them down.
In order to move up to the next level they must complete the level that they are on without any hint of help.