So I had a problem in my Honors classes where I wanted them to do application problems related to conic sections like:
Suppose you have a hot dog cooker made out of a parabolic mirror. If the parabola is 12 inches across and 6 inches deep, where should the wire be placed?
I had them working on them in groups to help things along, but I still knew what was going to happen: they were going to immediately ask me for help on each and every problem. How to encourage them to struggle?
I came up with hint tokens.
I gave each group several “tokens” (in my case, some chess pieces I found in a cabinet) and told them if they wanted help on a problem, they had to spend one of their tokens. Any tokens remaining by the end of the assignment would count as extra credit.
The result was astonishing. I saw students visibly straining, growling at the problems even, and when I came over to offer help they said “no, we must protect our precious tokens!”
Of course, some tokens were spent, but this was when the students were truly and completely stuck rather than just any point where they had to think a little.
It’s like in videogames where players tend to hoard health supplies, ammo, and so forth. Is there a word from psychology for this?