Effects of IXL on Math Achievement for High School Geometry Students

                                                      By: Sarah Beth Swain

Introduction

Some students who enter high school have a very difficult time with math. Students who may struggle in math do so because of a lack of confidence, inability to see the bigger picture and make associations between topics, and/or they lack a structured lesson planned by the teacher to help build concepts (Shellard, 2004).

Mathematics instruction needs to focus on the mastery of fundamentals.  Engagement in the skills that need to be mastered leads to a better foundational understanding of topics being practiced (Carini, Kuh, Klein, 2006).

Quadratics

Georgia students are taught standard MCC9-12.F.IF.7a in Geometry which states students should be able to “graph quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima” (Common, p.12). A quadratic function is a u-shaped graph, often called a parabola, with an algebraic equation of y=ax2+bx+c.

Students tend to struggle with moving from linear functions to quadratic functions in the mathematics classroom. Students struggle in seeing the real world application of the quadratic function. Some high school students have even said that “quadratic relations are one of the most conceptually challenging aspects of the high school curriculum” (Kotsopoulos, 2007).

Technology in the Classroom

Math Classrooms are moving from textile based thinking to technology driven exploring. Students no longer have to look at a 2D piece of a paper to understand a 3D figure. Computer programs and calculators have made it possible to manipulate those 3D figures. Math topics have not changed but the methods of teaching have expanded past paper and pencil. Teachers have the opportunity to use technology to make math more relevant and make math more accessible. Studies have shown that high achievement in mathematics was related to a high confidence in using technology as well as having a positive attitude to learning math with the use of technology (Barkatsas & Gialamas, 2009). One study even found a positive correlation between students who dropped out of college and low users of technology. The more students were unfamiliar with using technology, the more likely they were to drop out of college (Forsyth & Archer, 1997).

According to research, students have a positive opinion of technology in the classroom and technology impact student achievement. Students who have been instructed with technology versus students who have been taught with traditional methods were found to have performed higher. Instructional technology enhances the classroom environment (Eyyam & Yarratan, 2014). Even lower achieving students tend to be in favor of technology enhanced lessons. Research showed that lower achieving students preferred web based homework in algebra because of the immediate feedback they received (Leong & Alexander, 2013). Technology does not just reach out to higher performing students but tends to have a larger effect for the struggling learner, lower achieving student, and special need student’s math achievement (Li & Ma, 2010).

IXL

IXL is a computer based program that allows students to practice a skill in math by receiving feedback on problems missed. Based on the problems missed, it will generate new questions on problems until mastery is obtained. IXL was launched in 2007 and is now the world’s most popular subscription-based learning site for K-12 education. IXL’s philosophy is practice makes perfect. IXL is beneficial for students because it offers problems for many different learning styles and has dynamic scoring. IXL is helpful for teachers because it offers real-time reports on a class’s progress as well as individual students (IXL Practice That Feels Like Play).

The purpose of this study is to understand if using IXL is an effective way to teach the concept of quadratics. This will in turn show if using this type of program impacts student achievement in the area of quadratics.

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