Scaffolding for Developing Interest

Four-Phase Model of Interest Development
  1. Equations
  2. Variables
  3. Solving/Balancing Equations
  4. Graphing
  5. Binomial equations
  6. Polynomial equations

Scaffolding for Developing Interest

Instead of defaulting to elementitis, we can use recent research into developing student interest to revamp the standard of scaffolding concepts and learning objectives.

  1. *Spark* Attention — In order to start anyone down the path of interest, we have to spark their interest. This is the part of interest development that is already done somewhat well by good teachers. They know they have to hook students with something interesting from the beginning. Some call it the Hook. This phase only lasts a few minutes at the beginning of each class.
  2. *Kindle* Agency — The next phase acts like kindling to the spark of Attention. An educator must now tie the concept or learning objective directly to the learner’s sense of agency or being able to do or achieve something meaningful to them in the world. Here already, we’ve departed from even what many good teachers do and are instructed to do. See below for an example using algebra. This phase takes a few minutes after you’ve caught their attention.
  3. *Oxygen* Encouragement — Once the tiny spark of a personal interest has caught in the kindling of the Agency phase, it is important to feed the fire kindling and then small logs. This means lots and lots of encouragement. This phase can be challenging and rigorous, but the stakes should be very low and students should be allowed to retreat to their comfort zones. This phase of interest development is longer than the first two and is where students develop initial knowledge and mastery in a topic.
  4. *Logs* Challenges — Once the fire is self-sustaining, its time to feed it some big logs. In this case, “big logs” means high-stakes challenges and strong critical, constructive feedback. These logs would have smothered the fire in an earlier phase, but now the fire is strong enough to take them. High-stakes testing (which happens every 2–3 weeks in a traditional school) is an example of an interest-smothering log. This phase is the longest phase and is where a student heads towards expert mastery.

Equations & Variables

Attention: Large sums of money are inherently interesting (hence why bank robbers and the lottery are so interesting) so start by putting an equation for the federal budget on the board and show the cool infographic from the Obama era White House.

N (Number of followers) * P (number of pictures shared) / days = T (total potential likes per day)

Or for making or spending money

(R (Rent per month) + C (Car payments per month) + F (Cost of food per month) * 12 = Y (Yearly cost of living)

Or for the amount of C02 in the atmosphere

Building a Building vs. Building a Fire

So it turns out that scaffolding is more like building a fire than building a building. But why should we think that scaffolding for interest will work better than scaffolding up from fundamentals?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Educator, Founder, Engineer. Interested in Evidence Based Education and Solving BIG Problems.