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Cabell school begins digital math study

BARBOURSVILLE -- Drew Elkins, a fifth grader at Davis Creek Elementary School, looks forward to his math lessons. He even studied over the summer to get a jump-start on the next year's curriculum.

Elkins is just one of the students participating in a digital learning math program, where students complete course objectives at their own pace.

"It starts out simple, where it's a review from fourth grade," Elkins said. "I don't have to wait for other kids. If you're learning a lot quicker, you can go on."

Elkins' Barboursville school helped kick off a U.S. Department of Education-funded study Nov. 13 that will look at how well these digital math courses are working.

The Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International and Reasoning Mind are conducting the four-year study, which comes after a recent report from the National Assessment of Education, which said West Virginia's fourth graders ranked No. 42 in the nation in math.

Reasoning Mind, which developed the curriculum, and SRI International will examine student learning and attitude toward math during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The project's first phase will identify and enroll more than 50 elementary schools to participate in the study. The enrollment period began Nov. 13.

The U.S. Department of Education's grant covers all expenses for the schools to implement the digital curriculum in one grade level.

Scott Darling, enrollment specialist at Reasoning Mind, said this program has been in West Virginia for three years. It started in Marion County and moved into Cabell County about two years ago.

"The kids are learning. They are getting the one-on-one support they haven't had before," Darling said. "We are really excited about the study and the possibility to provide it for the whole state."

"Here, we have 20 kids and 20 different lessons," Darling said gesturing toward students in Teri Crowder's fifth grade class.

This is Crowder's third year teaching at Davis Creek and she said her role has changed since she first took the job.

"My role is more of a -- kind of an outside looking in," Crowder said, glancing at her computer, which feeds data from every student's program letting her know how they are doing. "They are facilitating my instruction."

For Crowder's class, there is 70 minutes dedicated to math each day and it is broken up into morning and evening segments.

Crowder said her students are learning and have been eager to participate. For grading, Crowder assigns quizzes on objectives all kids have covered, notebook quizzes and quizzes on the board. She also conducts mini lessons to make sure they are retaining what they've learned.

She also works with students one-on-one if she sees they are having trouble with objectives.

Darling said since students can take charge of their learning pace, they feel more ownership and success.

"People say, 'Oh, it's just a computer' but it's not just a computer. They are working hard. The note-taking is just as important," he said.

Besides dividing fractions, Elkins said his second favorite part of the program is the "goofy characters" to help he and his classmates learn.

One of the characters, a genie, paid a visit to students, who laughed and high-fived the character.

"He plays a major role in the program," Crowder explained as students got their picture with the genie. "He gives points if they solve so many problems and Genie Solutions comes up if they got something wrong. He explains how they should have answered. They also can write notes to him, ask him questions and email me questions that I can answer."

For the future, Darling said he hopes the program will expand to K-1 and grades 7-9. He said he also would like to see the program expand to reading.

Elkins said he would like to see reading included in the program.

"That way, you could read at your own pace and go on to the next thing," he said. 

Schools can enroll in the study by visiting http://mathimpact.net/ or by calling Scott Darling at 540-324-5052.

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.


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