Change the Paradigm

Most programs put kids into three categories, the lows, the middles, and the highs. I’m so proud that Ascend Math architecture allows kids to work at their own pace. So often, the kids that started at the lowest will end up at the highest.

Many students in Ms. Kathryn’s ELL class in Cobb County, GA, began at a third or fourth grade proficiency in 2018. By the end of the 2018-19 school year, all of these students passed their algebra End of Course test. Several students went on to be placed in Honors Geometry, leapfrogging many of the students in other math classes.

As Ken Williams says so eloquently the process of sorting students is detrimental to a student’s psyche.

Let’s change the paradigm and give students a chance to soar!

Marjorie Briley


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Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

2020 not only marks a new decade, it also marks the 20th year I have had the privilege of working in education. Every day I have the opportunity to work with amazing people that make a difference in students’ lives. When Kevin and I founded Ascend Education, our vision, our big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG), was to help 10 million students graduate high school. That vision is still in clear focus. We have come a long way on this journey, and I am proud of all the inspiring stories of student success and accomplishments in math equity we have to share. One student at Marietta Sixth Grade Academy said recently “Ascend Math helps me because it makes me have confidence in myself. The stuff I couldn’t do before, I can do now.”

There is more work to be done, and, as I set off into the new decade, I am inspired to become more intentional in sharing stories and building learning communities so that we can all learn from one another and continue on our mission!!

#mathequity #studentspotlight

Stay tuned.

Marjorie Briley

Equity Begins with Awareness

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Teach Your Kids To Fail

I read a great article by Jessica Grose this morning that I had to share with you. It’s not a new story, but with all the dissonance on the subject I think these ideas are important to anchor.

A teacher, mentor, coach, or parent’s beliefs about failure probably influences the way our students, athletes and children handle, rebound, and learn from their own set-backs.

Here are four tips about getting children (and young adults) comfortable with their failures.

  1. Ask questions about the process.
  2. Observe them closely.
  3. Model persistence
  4. Create safe spaces for learning

Read more:

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Earth Day Math!

Earth day 3
We’ve shared fun Earth Day math problems from our Ascend Math Partners over the years. Here are a few of our favorites to share with your class.

  1. If a tree grows 5 branches and each of those branches grows an additional 5 branches and each of those grow another 5 branches, how many branches are on the tree? (Submitted by Johnsburg Junior High School in Johnsburg, IL)
  2. Five recycled plastic bottles provide enough fiber to create one square foot of carpet. If the carpet in your classroom is 50 square feet how many plastic bottles would need to be recycled to make it.
  3. Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. How many trees are saved if our school collected and recycled 20 stacks of newspapers 6 feet high? (Submitted by Haughton High School, Haughton, LA)
  4. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away! Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. How many bottles are recycled an hour? How many more would be recycled if the percentage rose to 30%
  5. Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or undrinkable, another 2% is locked away in the ice cap or glaciers. What percent is drinkable? (Submitted by Southfield School in Shreveport, LA)
  6. The mean radius of Earth is approximately 3,963 miles. The mean radius of Mercury is 1,509 miles. Find the volume of both Earth and Mercury. About how many times larger is Earth than Mercury? Keep answers in terms of π.


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Celebrate Earth Day 2019 and receive a pack of Earth Day Pencils!

Earth Day 2Monday, April 22nd is Earth Day! This year’s Earth Day theme is to Protect Our Species. We hope you have lots of Earth Day fun planned for your classrooms. Share your class’ earth day activities with us on Twitter or Facebook by tagging @AscendEducation to receive a packet of Earth Day pencils made from recycled newspaper for your entire class! Here are some links to fun Earth Day activity ideas to help your class celebrate.

Check back with us later this week for fun Earth Day math problems!

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More March Mathness Problems!

We’re continuing our series of fun March Mathness problems this week. Here are a few more problems that your class is sure to enjoy.

Auburn and Virginia will play each other in the Semi-Final on Saturday. In the last round Auburn beat Kentucky 77 to 71. Virginia beat Purdue 80 to 75. Determine how many points each team won by. Which team won by the greatest margin?

In Michigan State’s thrilling 68-67 win over Duke on Saturday, Michigan State made 30 out of 70 field goals. Duke made 26 out of 57 field goals. Determine the field goal percentage for each by dividing 30 by 70 and 26 by 57. Who had the better field goal percentage? A. While Duke outshot Michigan State 45.6% to 42.9% the Spartans took 13 more shots to overcome the Blue Devils.

NBA games have 4 12-minute quarters. College games have 2 20-minute halves. Which games are longer, NBA or College, and by how much?

In Gonzaga’s loss to Texas Tech last Saturday they scored 69 points while Texas Tech scored 75. If Gonzaga led by 2 points at half time, by how many points were they outscored in the second half?

Although Duke was defeated by Michigan State on Saturday, The Blue Devils were picked to win the championship in 39.2 percent of all brackets that picked a champion. Use the Ascend Math Graph Exploration to plot the percent of brackets that picked the teams in the upcoming final four tournament to win the championship by referring to: Duke is the team the world picked to win the NCAA tournament. Scroll down to the middle of the article to see the percentages of brackets in which each team was picked to win.

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March Mathness VI

march mathnessHere are two awesome examples of past march math problems! But first we would like to challenge your classes to create and submit your own NCAA tournament related math problems! You could use the graphing exploration, another Ascend Math resource or simply submit a problem. Every class submitting a problem will be eligible.  All entries will be featured on the Ascend Math blog with the name of your school and class.  We will even include a picture or logo from your school with the posting.

The winning classroom will receive a $50 March Madness party gift card (VISA gift cards are the same as cash anywhere VISA is accepted).  Use the gift card to purchase pizzas, cupcakes, juice or whatever you like for your class party. Drawings will be held on April 1, 2019. The Winner will receive their gift card in time for the National Championship.

Problem 1:

A college basketball court is 94 ft by 50 ft (4,700 square feet). There are 68 teams competing in this year’s NCAA Tournament. If the court is divided into 68ths so each team can practice, how many square feet will each team get to practice?

Problem 2:

College players use a basketball that is 9.4 inches in diameter.  The hoop is 18 inches in diameter.  If a ball passes exactly through the center of the net, how much space will there be between the edge of the ball and the hoop?

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March Madness is here!

This year we’ll kick off our fun related blog, March Mathness, with an activity created by the Ascend Math Team!

Use the Ascend Math Graph Exploration to plot the distribution of team colors and mascots by referring to: Why you should always pick blue and orange teams in the NCAA tournament and How to pick your NCAA tournament bracket based on team mascots.


Check back with us later this week for more fun math problems and an exciting contest!

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Fidelity/Integrity Underlies Success

No matter how effective a solution, without fidelity of implementation that solution will not be successful. Fidelity of implementation, sometimes referred to as “Intervention Integrity” simply means that the intervention is carried out in the way it was designed. Researchers emphasize the importance of fidelity at all tiers of intervention and throughout all essential components of the RTI system. If an intervention has a research base supporting, for example, a particular duration, frequency, length of session, etc., then the intervention should be conducted as it was in the research studies in order to meet the “fidelity” criterion.

Intervention Integrity is important because failure to implement with fidelity can result in a number of undesired or unintended outcomes. For example, failure to implement with fidelity may unintentionally impede the progress of the student through the intervention. It may also falsely implicate the student’s learning ability—rather than the implementation of the intervention—in his or her failure to progress. In addition, placements, decisions, and outcomes of an RTI program as a whole cannot be supported unless fidelity of implementation is clearly documented.

The Role of Leadership in Fidelity

Administrators and teacher leaders can help ensure fidelity of implementation by emphasizing it in professional development sessions introducing the intervention. Most compelling among arguments for fidelity are statistics demonstrating past successes using the intervention with integrity. Research shows that once educators begin seeing results on their own, the need for providing them with awards, recognitions or other incentives to implement the program with fidelity is diminishes. Just the fact that students are making progress is generally an intrinsic motivator.

Leaders should ensure successes are celebrated and must also provide support to teachers and administrators who are falling short of the expected results of the intervention. One way is to share strategies and best practices for the effective use of time and resources necessary to implement the intervention within the school day.

How Ascend Math Documents Fidelity

The automaticity of Ascend’s progress monitoring and reporting facilitates administrators’ and teachers’ ability to implement with fidelity and to document the implementation. School staff are able to retrieve and analyze hours worked and levels gained by individual students, classes and other groupings, grade levels, and schools, and administrators are able to easily review whole-school progress.

Ascend Math Results

This documentation of fidelity produces results. Ascend Math has been successfully implemented with consistent results in a variety of use models. As mentioned in Part Five of this series, some schools use Ascend as the cornerstone of a second math elective. Others use the program in regularly scheduled math labs or in block periods. Ascend has tracked and documented the success of students using any of these instructional configurations.

In a middle school in which students use Ascend as a second math elective 67 percent of sixth graders, 56 percent of seventh graders, and 75 percent of eighth graders gained a full grade level progress in a single quarter. In a high school in which students use Ascend in math labs approximately four hours per week, numerous students progressed through two grade levels and some students progressed through three within a single school year.  In another middle school in which students use Ascend in block periods approximately two to three hours per week, 41 percent of students completed two or more levels within a single school year, and 45 students using Ascend reached their grade level. See more results here.

Learn more about the Six Critical Components of a Strong Math Intervention Program and the Ascend Math Model.

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Data – Crucial to Decision-Making

Although widely acknowledged for more than a decade as critical to student success, the use of data in the decision-making process is still far from being maximized in schools. It’s true that an effective Response to Intervention (RTI) system incorporates frequent assessment and progress monitoring at each phase of implementation, but too often, the use of this data to inform decisions at multiple points within the intervention process is not a given. Schools and districts need to ensure that every decision is supported with clear and comprehensive data.

Clear and Consistent Assessment Procedures

Implementing an intervention program with fidelity is one of the most challenging aspects of RTI, as it requires schools to create a clear statement of outcome measures and a comprehensive system of coordinated assessments to track outcomes over time prior to implementation.

In order for data-based decision making to be effective and consistent, it is critical that assessments be uniform—teacher-to-teacher variations can undermine the integrity of data used to make decisions about the RTI process and the interventions used.

RTI Core to Data-Based Decision Making

RTI can be seen as a slope, which, when overlaid with the clearly-defined expected outcomes of a student, can aid teachers in evaluating whether instructional experiences address the needs of all types of learners, and whether the student is making sufficient progress. If the student does not respond as expected, further individualization and differentiation must be implemented. RTI is an essential component of data-based decision making.

Challenges to RTI Intervention

There remain central challenges to effective RTI intervention, the primary ones being cost, time, and classroom configuration.

Solutions include the use of a multi-stage universal screening process to more accurately identify students truly at risk and in need of early intervention. Studies have also found “fast tracking” students from Tier 1 to Tier 3 intervention based on the significance of academic deficit to be effective. This can reduce cost by eliminating a likely-ineffective Tier 2 intervention.

Finding time for staff to receive adequate training, implement assessments, provide instruction, and monitor progress within an RTI program is also a significant challenge for schools. Research shows technology-based instruction, where progress and reports are automatically tracked, can free up staff to focus on progress monitoring and focused data analysis.

Finding flexibility in the class schedule to accommodate Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention alongside regular classroom instruction is also a significant challenge, particularly at the high school level. In addition, when a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention is allocated as a separate elective, some students may progress beyond their targets on one or more outcome measures prior to the end of the semester. This either results in an unintentional slow-down of the student’s progress/potential, or requires the teacher to gather additional materials to teach to the student’s level until the semester is finished.

How Ascend Math Facilitates Data-Based Decision Making

When it comes to clear and consistent measurement of student progress, Ascend Math provides a variety of mechanisms by which achievement of outcomes and fidelity of implementation can be measured and documented:

  • Easy-to-use reports compare student time on task and learning objectives mastered.
  • Other formative reports track post- test versus pre- test scores to ensure that students achieve math competency as described in individualized learning plans.
  • Summative assessments are aligned to local and state standards and high-stakes assessment objectives, allowing Ascend Math to be integrated seamlessly into a school’s or district’s overall RTI program.
  • The automaticity of administration ensures that data gathered are accurate, consistent and descriptive. Further, Ascend’s reporting tools enable school staff to view and document student progress to make productive, agile decisions about student placement and intervention effectiveness.

Ascend Math’s Activity Reports also assist educators in decision making. These reports enable school staff to view individual student and group progress and compare those with the goals of the RTI program. For example, a school may set student usage guidelines for students who are borderline between Tier 1 and Tier 2 intervention, or another for strictly Tier 2 students, and yet another for Tier 3 students.  At any time, the Ascend Math Activity Report allows school staff to monitor and document each student’s (and groups of students’) status with respect to these guidelines.

Challenges to RTI are addressed by Ascend Math as well. For instance, the program’s multi-stage universal screening process is designed to precisely identify students truly at risk and in need of intervention, which allows schools to save money by immediately assigning students to the specific level of intervention they need.

Being technology-based, Ascend Math also helps solve the problem of time. Because students are able to work independently, they are less in need of constant monitoring, which allows teachers to focus on individual student data and what decisions need to be made for each learner.

Ascend Math also requires little start-up training for teachers and school staff, and automatically generates reports, reducing the amount of time needed to view, analyze, and act on data. In addition, students can access the program anytime, anywhere, reducing the time burden on busy school staff.

One of the important distinctions of Ascend Math, as compared to other programs, is its extremely flexibility. If a student should progress beyond their target goal before the end of the semester, the program accommodates their accelerated learning with more advanced lessons, rather than forcing them to stay on hold until the end of the semester.

Ascend is also flexible enough to be used in a variety of circumstances. Schools have successfully used the program in second math electives, math labs, and block periods, among other models.

With Ascend Math, consistent results have been achieved across a range of use models in elementary, middle, and high school levels, which makes it easy to fit into any school schedule.

Learn more about the Six Critical Components of a Strong Math Intervention Program and the Ascend Math Model.

Part 6 of this series will focus on Intervention Fidelity/Integrity.

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