Most reports paint a depressing picture of the current state of Australian students’ maths results. The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science results show Australian students are being outperformed in maths by countries such as Kazakhstan and Slovenia and falling two years behind students in Singapore.
With the jobs of the future increasingly relying on maths and technology skills, this is a big worry and we should be concerned that our kids won’t have the required skills necessary to keep up with global demand.
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We wanted to give every student the step-by-step learning and instantaneous feedback that a personal tutor can, and not just push children to complete hundreds of multiple choice questions with no sense of progress or accomplishment.
While Mathspace is a helpful online tool to make maths easier to understand for students, we still had a big problem with keeping students engaged with maths.
With the rise in social media and video games, kids’ attention spans are becoming increasingly limited, which I’m sure we can all relate to. Even while reading through this article, chances are you’ve received a mobile notification. Kids today face so many distractions and immediate gratification from social media, which is always just one click away, and it’s hard to compete.
We tried everything to make maths more appealing, from gamification, to avatars and badges, but any increases in attention were only short-lived. To make a real improvement in engagement we needed regular and consistent use of Mathspace. We discovered a study by behavioural economist Steven Levitt at the University of Chicago which looked at paying students to improve their test scores and the results showed it was an effective way to encourage effort.
This sparked a question – could we pay students to complete their maths homework? This led to a hundred other questions. What were the ethical ramifications? How would it work? Could this work over the long-term?
While many people might disagree with the idea of ‘bribing’ kids to do their homework, just looking at the declining results of Australian maths students shows that something needs to change.