The Incremental Reinforcement Technique

by Warren Buckleitner

When to use it: A didactic task that could become repetitive and tedious.
Why it works: Curiosity is a powerful motivator. "What will happen when I get to the end?"

Background: Used in software design early. I first noticed it in 1986, in a title called Stickybear Math; Weekly Reader Software/Optimum Resource). In that title, every math problem that was solved resulted StickyBear (the main character) going up another story in a multi-story building. It copies a common mastery learning teaching technique where the student knows where he/she is in the content.

With Stickybear Math, for some reason, you kept slogging through the math problems. Why? -- because you just had to see what happened when Stickybear got to the top of the building. The technique was used in several Reader Rabbit titles, and Barbara Peacock of School Zone Interactive used it frequently in her titles.

Instead of giving a child the entire M&M, give them just a little tiny bit, and don't tell them what kind of chocolate is inside.

It is used nicely in DreamBox Learning -- a Flash-based online math curriculum. Have a look: