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How we increased the motivation of children in grades 4-5

If you are looking for new tools to diversify your daily classroom activities, register as a teacher on the website to start a free trial period (only this week)! Happy Numbers offers a curriculum in which students study mathematical procedures consistently. They increase and deepen knowledge using descriptive visual models, supplemented by manipulative mechanics and expressive animation.

     Now, Happy Numbers’ 4th- and 5th-grade students are more motivated than ever to learn math. This is what we did to spike their interest and keep them engaged to achieve even more math growth!

     One may wonder, why would we focus specifically on these grade levels? According to a recent study[1], which looks into the relationship between student class-level interest and teacher support, students’ motivation starts to decrease approaching the 5th grade, so teachers have to resort to different strategies to keep their kids engaged. 

     At Happy Numbers, we aim to provide the best teacher and student experience. On top of keeping track of industry trends, we routinely gather teacher feedback and monitor student performance on the platform when planning future product developments. Read on to see how we balance education and fun with a brand new student account interface and Happy Games! 

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Gamified Interface


     We’ve come across some feedback shared by our students in grades four to five that Happy Numbers accounts were a bit childish for them. Children grow up, and their needs change, so, naturally, we need to keep up with them. We made some significant improvements to the student account this year. 

     First, let’s start with the account interface: it looks more teen-oriented and has a more game-like structure now. 


     As the next step, we’ve included various gamification elements to make studying math more exciting for students. Our new motivation system is based on rewards: each time students successfully solve a task, a new guild is opened. The more guilds students collect, the closer they get to the next upgrade. 

     Each guild unlocks a new character with its own unique story. We’ve done extensive research on the illustration stylistics when creating these characters, so you see many diverse creatures with interesting features and unique personalities.

     We’ve also introduced quests and challenges to help guide students to math growth. Just like with tasks, completing quests gives students access to new guilds and upgrades. As they progress through each challenge, students can track their performance toward finishing the quests. 



Happy Games


     We continued our quest for higher student engagement by going beyond the student account interface. We learned that some students, especially in grade 5, run out of things to do on Happy Numbers before the end of a school year. This happens if they use Happy Numbers beyond the advised time target prescribed by their teacher at the beginning of the year. The solution we came up with is Happy Games.

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     At Happy Numbers, each student is assigned task and time targets to help them progress to math growth. The Task Target is the minimum number of tasks per week that students are expected to complete, and is calculated based on a student’s assignment. The Time Target is set by default at 45 minutes but can be adjusted by the teacher for further differentiation. 

     Once students hit their weekly targets, a Games button is unlocked, and they can choose to play math games instead of completing regular tasks. At the end of the week, however, the targets are updated, and students lose access to Happy Games until they hit the newly assigned weekly targets. As you can see, Happy Games also serves as an additional reward and a motivation boost for students to keep practicing math with Happy Numbers.

     The primary purpose of Happy Games is to help students avoid feelings of fatigue after solving too many problems and to help them apply freshly acquired math skills in a new, game-like setting. Happy Games focuses on improving fact fluency and spatial reasoning, which are introduced in the regular curriculum but could always benefit from more practice. 

     Overall, we believe that Happy Games is a great tool that complements the Happy Numbers course and improves the learning experience of our students by strengthening their skills in logical, spatial, and critical thinking, math fluency, and problem-solving.

Results


     Now let’s take a look at actual data that shows how exactly our improvements influenced student target accomplishment dynamics. The graph above illustrates how the percentage of 4th grade students who successfully achieved their weekly task and time targets during the current school year changed in comparison to the previous year’s results for the first 16 weeks of the school year. 

     We can see an obvious increase in target completions starting from the 2nd and 3rd weeks of using Happy Numbers. Namely, the percentage of students hitting their weekly targets increased by 7% compared to the previous year. After that, there’s a minor decrease, which is again followed by stable growth with spikes around the 12th and 15th weeks and a plunge during the Thanksgiving break, when schools were out on holidays. Overall, there was a 5-10% increase in the number of students who were able to successfully achieve their weekly targets this year compared to the previous school year.



     For comparison, if we look at the graph above showing the same data for 3rd grade, where no account alterations or Happy Games were introduced, we can see that the number of students who hit their weekly targets remains more or less the same as it was the previous school year. 

     We believe Happy Games have proven to be an effective means of motivation in grades 4 and 5, so we plan to continue developing even more exciting ideas and games for our students. There will be more Happy Games content for everyone, even for our younger math lovers, so stay tuned!

[1] Dynamics of classroom motivation: Teacher enthusiasm and the development of math interest and teacher support; Rebecca Lazarides, University of Potsdam, Germany; Hanna Gaspard, University of Tübingen, Germany; Anna-Lena Dicke, School of Education, United States Learning and Instruction Volume 60, Number 1, April 2019 ISSN 0959-4752 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd, 

Still looking for some useful ideas to incorporate into your lesson plans? Your own “digital assistant” will not only help you diversify usual classroom activities but also will help optimize instruction and provide individual student data. Click “I am a teacher” on Happy Numbers’ website to get started right now. Free trial is available only this week!

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