CEP 815 - Edith Erickson
Part 1: Problem of Practice and Technological Solution
After only working at my school for three short years, it has become abundantly clear that a large portion of the students in my school struggle with basic math skills. Students entering my third grade classroom struggle with basic skills, including adding and subtracting single digits (without counting it out on their fingers) as well as skip counting, skills which are necessary to teach third grade skills that include multiplication. My in-class observations about math are backed up by the results of the MAP test (Measures of Academic Progress). While most students make growth between tests, many score below grade level. Because of this, it is often necessary to spend extra time working on basic skills before moving onto grade level material. Reteaching the basics also causes problems as there are always a few students who have mastered the basics and are ready to move on to the grade level material.
One part of the solution to the math problem is to find a tool that will allow students to work on skills that are appropriate to their level of need. One such program is called “First in Math” by Suntex, the makers of the 24 Game. The program is an online based set of games and activities that teach skills ranging from basic number skills to advanced algebraic equations. As students complete activities and master skill, they earn “stickers” for themselves, and in turn their team (class). The students can view their stickers and class’ stickers compared to students and classes from around the country. In addition, each class has a “Player of the Day”, “Player of the Week”, and “Player of the Month”. There is also a “Team of the Week” award for the class earning the most stickers per student. With all of the opportunities for recognition, many of the students are motivated to play. In addition to the awards, the games are genuinely fun, making learning math more enjoyable.
Part 2: Resources
- Internal resources to support this initiative would include the other math teachers in the school who would be vital factors in implementing the program. While most students play at home, the program is more effective when the students are able to play at school.Teachers would need to schedule lab times so that their students will have time to use the program.
- Another important internal resource is the school computer lab, and for the middle school, the individual student laptops. The students need to be able to work independently on a computer.
- Additionally, our IT specialist would likely need to update the computers with the newest version of Adobe Flash Player and ensure that the other necessary system requirements are met.
- The support of the principal is also necessary for ensuring success since she would be responsible for finalizing the order and payment.
- Manipulatives used in conjunction with the program may also be helpful for students who learn better through tactile experiences.
- The biggest external resource for ensuring is parental support. Most of the time spent in the First in Math program takes place at home, so having supportive parents is key. The parents also pay for their child's subscription, so their financial contribution is needed as well.
- One of the local credit unions has worked with our students on money skills, a task which is supported through select activities in the program.
- The town's limestone mine makes real life math and science connections which support our goal of improving math knowledge. They provide field trip opportunities as well as guest speakers for our students and may be open to providing prizes for students that excel in the program.
- Internet access after school hours is helpful in encouraging students to practice math skills outside of the classroom. The public library is a great resources for after school practice for those without internet access at home.
- The use of online math webinars would also be valuable for bolstering teachers' math instructional skills.
Part 3: Budget
Part 4: Sustainability Statement
The overall mission of this initiative is the improvement of basic math skills so that students are prepared to work on grade level materials. This will prevent teachers from having to reteach and remediate skills that students should already have mastered when entering their math classes. The use of the First in Math program will be one step in reaching the goal of math proficiency by providing students with a fun, motivating, and educational tool with which they can practice at home or school. Parents are a vital part of the program’s success in that they are responsible for paying for their child’s subscription and also need to encourage their child to continue playing at home. Business and community organizers will support the math efforts by providing real life examples of the necessity of math proficiency. School leaders, the principal in particular, will also be a vital partner in this program as she is in charge of ordering the licenses, ensuring that the computer lab is functional, and providing recognition to the players of the day and other “Winner’s Circle” students and classes.
In order for this program to be effective, a number of leadership skills are necessary. The most important of all would be effective communication. The program is simple to use, but all of the math teachers would be more likely to use the program for effectively if they were adequately trained prior to its implementation. Clear expectations for teachers would be effective in helping teachers determine how to structure the program within their current math curriculum. Another important skill is delegation. The program is fairly simple, but by splitting up certain responsibilities teachers will feel like the program is less of a burden. For example, teachers could alternate checking the school wide Winner’s Circle students for daily recognition on the announcement while others are put in charge of enlisting community members to support the math curriculum. Additionally, a leader who acts as an alchemist would inspire students, teachers, staff, and community members to embrace the need for improvements in math skills through the use of this program.
There is little published research into the First in Math program, meaning that much of our thinking on the issue will be framed through professional discussion. The math teachers will need to discuss whether or not they are noticing positive changes in their students that they feel could be credited to the First in Math program. They will also benefit from discussions about how other teachers are implementing the program in their classes. These discussions will guide the stakeholders in their determination of whether or not the program should be continued annually based on the cost versus results.
The success of the program will be primarily measured by the MAP test which is administered three times throughout the school year. Since the focus is improving basic math skills, the subcategory score of “Numbers and Operations” would be the most telling in terms of the program’s impact. The formation of a committee to analyze test results compared to the amount of stickers earned within the First in Math program would be a valuable factor in determining success. In addition, improvements in basic skills should be noticeable within the normal classroom setting. Teachers should see that they have to reteach prerequisite skills less frequently than previously.