The traditional way of learning motivates students to strive to solve easy problems and avoid difficult ones to get the most points. Knowing that mindset was the challenge for most students, we decided to flip this paradigm on its head. Our teacher teams in mathematics created three levels of difficulty for each math concept that all students needed to master: 1-Star, 2-Star, 3-Star.
1 Star Problems
Level 1 challenges students to master the skill in its most basic form. The good thing about having level 1 problems is that it helps teachers drive intervention. If students fail to understand the basic concept in its simplest form, teachers know that remediation begins at the basic level of understanding.
2 Star Problems
Once students master level one problems, they move on to 2-Star Problems. These problems challenge students to master the skill in problem-solving situations that are limited to one or two steps. The idea behind 2-Star is that students apply their basic knowledge with more challenging problems. If students master 2-Star problems for that skill, the student earns a blue star where they write their name and the skill on the star. The star is then posted on the wall in the grade level hall for all students and staff to see. Again, the great thing about 2-star problems is that teachers can focus their interventions on guiding students to understand how to apply their knowledge of the skill in basic problem-solving situations.
But two stars isn't good enough for our students. They are hungry for 3 star problems.
3 Star Problems
Angry Bird Learning
The beauty of the Angry Birds philosophy is that it is not a massive change in the task, but a massive change in the mindset. By converting the problem into the prize, students are hungry and eager to demonstrate their learning quickly, so they can have their name on a star posted in the hall. Excitement about learning gets harder as the year goes on, but if you build new and different extrinsic motivators into your learning, intrinsic motivation will follow. This spring, tie your learning to the philosophy of one of the best selling games of all time, and then watch the students get fired up to master skills and become intrinsically motivated to excel at learning.