Star Effort Awards Motivate all your students and do it fairly.

Recognizing effort (rather than success) can motivate everyone

anxious student after timed testNot all students will be above average in their academic ability.  Learning comes harder for some than it does for others.  Recognizing only academic success can cause students who are finding the going slow and difficult, to get frustrated and give up.

On the other hand, if you recognize effort, then everyone has a shot at the recognition.  Students can be motivated to try something at which they feel they can succeed.  If you recognize effort, in the form of sessions completed in Rocket Math, everyone realizes they can achieve that recognition.  Everyone can do “effort” so if you want to motivate everyone, recognize effort.


Recognizing effort (rather than success) is fair to everyone.

Is it fair to recognize only the students who find it very easy to learn things?  Academic ability is not evenly distributed.  Some have to work much harder to learn things.  If they work just as hard as the talented student, shouldn’t they get recognized?  If you recognize effort, that is fair to everyone.

Star Effort Rating screen shows student effort.


When students log into the Online Tutor, they see their effort rating screen.  Students earn stars for how many sessions they have COMPLETED in the last 14 days. Two sessions earn one-half of a star.  So 8 sessions will earn two stars and so on.  The stars they have earned show on the effort rating screen when each student logs in.

You should circulate while students are logging in and comment on their level of effort.  At first you may only see one or two stars, but be sure to publicly praise the students who are putting forth the most effort.  You might put the names of the students with the most number of effort stars on the board.  You could ask if anyone has earned 2 stars, to raise their hand.  Anyone can put forth effort, so it is very fair to praise and recognize effort.  The more effort they put forth, they more stars they will earn. (And not coincidentally, the more they will learn!)

Star Effort Award Certificates for 8 or more sessions in the last 14 days.

You can also print out a certificate and award it when students reach these levels of effort.  Award these on a regular basis, such as every two weeks–so students know when another award ceremony is coming.  When you reward some students for their effort, students who are watching, realize they can do it. Students know they can get an award next time, if they give more effort.  The benefit of the motivation is for the ones sitting in their seats watching.  Motivation is most effective for students who don’t get it!

If you reward everyone, the ceremony will have no effect. The students watching the ceremony (and not getting a award) will feel motivated to work harder and put in more effort so as to win a Star Award the next time you do awards. This why they need to know that you’ll be giving out awards again later.

Once a student earns a two-star award, their goal is to earn a three-star award.  Don’t give them another two-star award, instead they should be striving for a three-star award.  Once most people have earned a three-star award, then the big deal becomes earning a four-star award, and so on.  The students who have put in the most effort and the students who have just reached new levels of engagement, those are the ones who should be getting the awards in the ceremony.

Making it into a ceremony signals the importance of the award.

The importance of an award is directly related to how important it seems to the adults in the room.  Casually handing out awards without fanfare signals the awards aren’t very important.  Conversely, bringing another outside adult, such as a math coach, parent, or principal, into the room and handing out the awards with a little ceremony signals that this is an impressive accomplishment.  Have both adults shake the hand of the award recipient, and form a little receiving line, so that each recipient shakes the hands of the adults and all the other recipients.  Then a round of applause for all the winners.  Takes five minutes, but the effort to do the ceremony signals that this is an impressive achievement.

The first Star Effort Award is for 8 sessions in 14 days earning a 2 star effort awardThat is nearly a session every day. This level of effort (daily sessions) is your goal for all students.  Working with the Online Tutor daily is needed to really make progress on learning math facts.

Who is working hard enough to earn Star Effort Awards?

Go to the Review Progress page to find the individuals who are working the hardest.  Scroll down to the individual student rows and scroll to the right to see the “Total” column.  This column shows the number of sessions over the last two weeks by default.  (It is adjustable as to which dates to be covered–if you want to recognize the last month for example).  This selection shows the last 14 days from 11/07 to 11/20.   This column will tell you exactly who is working the hardest.  Click at the top of the column until it is sorting downward and you can see at the top which students are completing the most sessions. The top student in the example to the left is showing 9 completed sessions. Therefore this student has earned the two-star effort award.  It’s the place to start.  By giving out this award, you signal to the rest of the class, that they too could earn awards for their effort.

This total data tells us the level of effort students have been putting forth to learn their math facts.  If you monitor this number and recognize students putting forth the most effort, you’ll get more students engagement.  School managers can do this for the whole school.  Teacher managers can do it for their class.  This is key to motivating their effort and then their learning. 

You should have a goal of getting students to do Rocket Math as homework too.

12 sessions in 14 days for a 3 star effort award. In 14 days there are 10 school days, so getting up to 12 sessions in 14 days means that some students are doing two sessions in a day, and probably are doing it as homework.  By recognizing this level of effort you are on your way to having students do this as homework.  Here are more ideas on how to motivate students to do Rocket Math as homework.

Once students are doing Rocket Math as homework regularly you’ll see students doing 16 sessions in 14 days for a 4 star effort award. You may want to help students realize that a 4 Star Effort award is better than a three or two star award.  “I mean a two-star award is good and all, but a 4-star award is really amazing!” 

20 sessions in 14 days for a 5 star effort award. That’s one session each day in school and one more for homework. At this level of effort your students are going to make great progress in Rocket Math.   Rocket Math can guarantee you’ll get improved fluency because it is an effective intervention.  Your students will, we guarantee, become quite fluent in math facts and will find math to be easier and more enjoyable than ever.




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