How our school is reimagining math education

Valerie Peterson Teacher, Scott Elementary School

At Scott Elementary School, our approach to education is defined as GAIN (Growth in Academics through Innovation and Neuroeducation), which includes multiple initiatives to ensure each student reaches their maximum potential. Our focus is to inspire a love for learning and prepare students to be successful throughout every stage of their lives.

Indiana is one of that states that has not adopted Common Core State Standards. Similar to the Common Core standards in other states, we focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that students need to be successful. Our view is that the real power to learn rests with the learner. My role is to seek out ways to engage this power within each child to optimize their opportunities in life.

My corporation strives to educate the whole child by integrating academics with social and emotional learning. We inspire students’ desire to learn by making them feel important, leading by example, praising their successes, and developing their confidence.

Ma and Kishor (1997) found evidence of the impact of attitude to mathematics on attainment. They found that attitudes, beliefs, and emotions are the major influencers.

This evidence has allowed us to gain important insight into how students can learn effectively and equitably. I align student learning with the Kagan method, which is designed to promote cooperation and communication in the classroom, boost students’ confidence, and retain their interest in classroom interaction. When social and emotional learning and the Kagan method are applied in a classroom, students enjoy math more and constantly aspire to learn.

Making math fun…and effective

I’m always looking for innovative, effective, and research-based educational resources to engage students and support our math curriculum.

One of my favorite online resources is SplashLearn. It is a math resource that is free of charge and provides a wide range of fun, learning activities. This resource segments each aspect of mathematical learning by skill and standard making it ideal to supplement and consolidate what students are learning in class.

Each day, I start the math lesson by introducing a new mathematical skill. After the initial introduction, we use a Kagan structure to practice the skill in an engaging way. Students then move on to math stations, which includes a worksheet they independently complete and a skill assigned to them on SplashLearn. Each student practices the assigned daily skill and then works on their own learning path. The pathway is individualized for each student because the program recommends what skill the student needs to work on based on math proficiency. Students see these highly effective learning challenges as fun games which boosts their engagement.

The online learning content allows me to track their progress and assign skills to students outside of their current grade level. This is a great way to have students revisit previously taught skills or work on higher advance skills.

What are the benefits of entering a math competition?

This year we entered the SplashLearn Springboard math challenge competition to improve engagement in math and encourage mastery of mathematical standards. Over 10 weeks, about 20,000 classrooms try to complete as many math activities as possible with national and state prizes. Springboard is an annual K-5 math challenge that encourages children to collaborate and learn in out-of-the-box ways. It makes math fun and gives students a sense of achievement as they compete against classrooms across the nation

It is important that students are exposed to competitive programs because it helps develop a growth mindset. Competition fosters important skills like resilience, perseverance, and tenacity. My students know we may not win the competition, but we are having fun trying and will continue to strive to do our best!

My students love the challenge. We have a staggered arrival time, so the morning is a great time to work on the challenges. Each morning I post our class’s current standing on Springboard and then again before we begin our first lesson. They are always so excited to see our progress from just our morning arrival time!

The online math competition also motivates students to collaborate with others because we work together as a class to meet our weekly goals. The great thing about this competition is that it isn’t about the complexity of the activities, it’s about the number of questions completed. All students contribute equally to our efforts by answering questions.

We are also able to create a world that you can print off and build in your classroom. It is a huge classroom display that is used to track our Springboard progress. Each week, our goal is to earn 2,000 points. If we reach our goal, we unlock rewards that we print off and add to our wall display. The rewards we earn are on the online resource, so students are always excited when they see a piece from our classroom display on their computer. Although the competition is not over, we are currently 112th in the nation and 2nd in Indiana! Whether or not we win, I know my students have loved the challenge, their confidence has soared, and they are more driven than ever to apply analytical thinking in math.

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