11
Adapting to Differences
in Students' Motivational Patterns

And there is the poignant story of Sandy and math baseball. It appears that Sandy's fears about mathematics began in the third grade when her teacher's favorite mathematics game was a variant on the spelling bee called math baseball. Two captains were appointed from the class, and they chose teams for the game. The teams lined up on either side of the room, lead-off batters closest to the blackboard. The teacher “pitched” a problem and the lead-off batters ran to the blackboard and solved it as fast as they could. The one who came to the correct solution in the shortest time scored a run.

Sandy wasn't a fast runner, so she was usually at a disadvantage before she even started the calculation. And although she was very accurate in doing arithmetic calculations, Sandy was slower than a lot of the other children. So she could never score a run for her team. Even though other pupils didn't say anything to her, Sandy knew she was a liability to her friends, and she grew to dread these episodes of public problem solving. Sandy never recovered her initial enjoyment of mathematics. She couldn't take comfort in the fact that she got the right answers and did well on tests, because in the most important area—respect among friends—she didn't feel successful at all.

—Brush (1980, p. 14)

Sandy's story illustrates two points that are noted later in this chapter in the section on gender differences in motivational patterns: Compared to boys, girls are less likely to be motivated by involvement in competitions and more likely to question their abilities in mathematics. Such gender differences complicate your motivational efforts: Some strategies work well with boys but not with girls, or vice versa. Similar complications can arise

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