Bribing students helps to improve their performance.
A few quarters ago, I was teaching one of my classes about ratios and rates, and I was using cooking examples to make the lesson real to them. So I tell them: “Okay, my favorite cake recipe is the Chocolate Carmel cake. The cake takes 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate, 1 1/2 pounds of butter, 1 pint of heavy cream, 2/3 pound of sugar and a dozen eggs… Chocolate costs $3.89 per pound, butter costs $3 per pound, cream costs $4.25 per pint, eggs cost $3.29 per dozen, and sugar cost $0.89 per pound. How much does it cost to make a Chocolate Carmel cake?”
The students worked quietly for a few minutes, then a hand went into the air. “Yes?” I asked.
“Can we have one?” the student asked, and the rest of the class soon was in agreement that they wanted a Chocolate Carmel Cake
“I’ll make a deal with you. If as a class you can average an 85% on this Ratios & Rates test, we will have a potluck at the end of the quarter and I will make a chocolate caramel cake.” What I didn’t tell them was that the class average on exams thus far was around 78%.
They did it. They worked hard over the next week, and the class came through with an average of 92%.
So, bribery works. It gives the students a much needed sense of control in the classroom, as well as a tangible incentive to work harder. And I got to bake a heart-stopping 13,000 calorie cake.