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.

<maniacal laughter>

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