The Effect of Positive and Negative Reinforcement on Sixth Graders’ Mental Math Performance
(1) Dayton Regional STEM School, Dayton, Ohio, (2) Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio
We examined the relationship between different forms of reinforcement and subjects’ mathematical performance. Thirty sixth-grade students were asked to mentally calculate answers to fraction problems, while holding a heart rate monitor, after receiving a positive, negative, or neutral form of reinforcement. While the results suggest that any motivation, positive or negative, may result in higher grades, the positive reinforcement group displayed the largest gain. However, the results were not statistically significant, though the trend was consistent with prior research. The heart rates of the positively-reinforced group were significantly lower than those of the negatively-reinforced and control groups. These results suggest that motivation through reward, rather than punishment, has a greater effect on the performance of students academically and may increase their grades, as well as lower heart rates during assessments.
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