This company pays kids to do their math homework | Mohamad Jebara

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Mohamad Jebara loves mathematics — but he’s concerned that too many students grow up thinking that this beautiful, rewarding subject is difficult and boring. His company is experimenting with a bold idea: paying students for completing weekly math homework. He explores the ethics of this model and how it’s helping students — and why learning math is crucial in the era of fake news.

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12 Comments

  1. I have zero education in Psychology, so please excuse my ignorance, but, as a parent I know that paying kids to do homework doesn't make them like a particular subject more. Also, rewards-for-completion or rewards-for-performance backfire. It's better to engage them with stories and purpose.

    Even though "Drive" by Daniel Pink was published in 2009, I only read it last week. It's main idea is that rewards damage intrinsic, long term motivation. They even damage natural curiosity, creativity and problem solving skills.

    I think the book is a good starting point when figuring out how to make children more likely to use the app. Also, in my opinion, the app should have different engagement goals separated on different kinds of users:

    1. kids who have to learn basic math as part of their school requirements and part of being a well rounded person,
    2. kids who want to give advanced math a try,
    3. kids who absolutely love math (mini Mohamad Jebaras if you will 😁) and who need to app for ever more challenging problems.

    BTW. The story of your love for math might engage and inspire more children than a $10 reward would. 😉

  2. He's not just paying the kids, he's using the parent's money to pay them.  So the parents are motivated to stay on the kid's backs, and not see their money wasted. Which helps keep the kids engaged.  Win-win.

  3. The dramatic increase in the level of mathematics required for intelligent citizenship is astounding. Our world is becoming more digital, globalized and automatized, and proficiency in math is required to appropriately use this technology to the fullest (Gravemeijer et al, 2017). Unfortunately, although mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills are needed now more than ever to accommodate these changes in society, interest in math is declining in schools, and as a result, enrollment has declined. For instance, the number of students studying mathematics in Australia has declined significantly each year (American Mathematical Society, 2008). This TedTalk emphasizes the importance of a curriculum reform, and that we need the best students to become teachers. This claim to update the curriculum is accurate, as the Ontario Curriculum for Mathematics has not been updated since 2005. Rather than standardized testing being the primary focus, as mentioned in this presentation, tests should follow a mastery-based learning approach. Standardized tests narrow the curriculum and focus more on multiple choice than on critical thinking and communication-based responses (IDEA, 2018).

    Although Mohamed discusses the potential benefit of using cash as an incentive for students to do their math homework, previous research has shown that extrinsic motivators may be detrimental to intrinsic motivation. While the video states that this has been a successful approach so far, the evidence is lacking and perhaps conclusions are being drawn prematurely. Further, when an intrinsic motivator is removed, it is important to consider whether the behaviour will continue as desired, or if the negative reinforcement will result in a discontinuation of the desired behaviour (Skinner, 1983). Perhaps the focus should be in promoting grit in classrooms, to improve intrinsic motivation (Duckworth, 2007).

  4. I say let the supply of smart maths students keep decreasing. This will ensure that the job salaries stay up or get even better, leaving the people like me who cared in the first place with even more $$$ than those who didn't. Seems fair if you ask me…

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