Should Learning Be Personalized or Individualized?

middle schoolThere has been a lot of discussion lately regarding Personalized Learning. What is Personalized Learning?  Is it really any different from Individualized Learning? Some people think so.

I read an interesting article on the subject of “personalized learning.”  For today’s students …

“The approach, called personalized learning, differs from the traditional classroom their parents probably experienced, when teachers gave unifying lectures and told all students to work on the same problems.

‘That sounds crazy. Why would you expect all students to need the same thing in math on that particular day?’ sixth-grade teacher Becca Kratky said.”

While I agree with this, the headline from this article “With Personalized Learning Students Plot Their Own Path” should give one pause.

Whether you choose to call it individualized or personalized the key is the addition of the word “guided.”  Without guidance, students well ahead of others, those behind, and those in the pack are far more likely to falter.  With only rare exceptions, students should not choose “what” they learn and when they should learn it.  This is most especially true of students who have fallen well behind in math. What they must learn should be chosen for them.  Students who have fallen behind need an individual study plan that bypasses what the student already knows and focuses on that student’s individual needs. Add a professional educator overseeing the plan and monitoring progress and you have a recipe for success.  Call it personalized. Call it individualized. Call it what you will. Guided individual study plans are the best way to move math students ahead quickly.

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Ascend Math named Top Product of 2015 by District Administration Magazine’s Readers

Ascend Math has been recognized for making a positive difference in education by K12 leaders who named it to District Administration magazine’s “Readers’ Choice Top Products for 2015.”

I have to say it is an honor to again be chosen as one of the best products for K-12 education. It is an even greater honor to make difference in the lives of dedicated educators and their students.

The winners were compiled from 2,100-plus nominations from the magazine’s readers over the past year. The Readers’ Choice Top Products has been announced online and in the December 2015 issue of District Administration. This is the third time that Ascend Math has been named a Top Product by District Administration having received the award in 2011 and 2013 as well.

District Administration’s Readers’ Choice Top Products awards program informs superintendents and other senior school district leaders about products their colleagues around the country are using to help their districts excel in a variety of areas, such as technology, sustainability and curriculum instruction.

“It was inspiring to learn about the products being used in today’s schools and classrooms that are helping districts succeed,” says JD Solomon, District Administration’s editorial director. “All of our 2015 honorees should be very proud of this achievement.”

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Thanksgiving Math Problems

ThanksgivingHere are some fun Thanksgiving math problems to share with your class.

Turkeys have more than 5000 feathers.  How many feathers on a flock of 4 turkeys?

The Pilgrims are planning a big Thanksgiving for friends and family. They are expecting 18 adults and 40 children. For dessert they will bake apple pies and pumpkin pies.  Each apple pie will be cut into 6 pieces for adults. Each pumpkin pie will be cut into 8 pieces for the children. How many of each pie do they need to make?

Turkey is higher in protein and lower in fat than other meats.  A 3 ounce portion of turkey has 170 calories with 70 of those calories from fat.  By comparison, a 3-ounce portion of chicken has 200 calories with 100 of those calories from fat.  What percentage of the turkey’s total calories comes from fat?  What percentage of the chicken’s total calories comes from fat?

A turkey can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly at up to 55 miles per hour. If a turkey runs at top speed for one hour and flies for another 2  hours how far will he have travelled?


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Award Winning School Finds Blended Learning Success

Howard Middle School, residing in the Bibb County School District of Macon, GA, was named a Focus School due to the large achievement gap between the highest achieving and lowest achieving subgroups.  The school district implemented a blended learning approach which consisted of direct instruction coupled (one-on-one or small groups no more than 10 students) with online learning. In an effort to increase the most-at-risk students’ math skills and close the achievement gap at Howard, the district’s Title I Office selected Ascend Math because the program identifies the student’s strengths and needs and tailors instruction specifically to their deficiencies.

Ascend Math is used exclusively with FLP (Flexible Learning Program) students, during connections throughout the school day. The at-risk students in the program attended FLP five days a week during the time period allotted for connections.

“Howard Middle School was an overwhelming choice to receive the 2015 Ascend Math Gold Medal,” said Kevin Briley, CEO of Ascend Education.  “The students and educators at Howard Middle School have really excelled in math,” said Kevin Briley, CEO of Ascend Education.

The Gold Medal Award was established in 2010 to honor the schools or districts that best demonstrate a dedication to ensuring that all students become successful at math. Howard Middle School used Ascend Math as a key component of their blended learning approach to math intervention.

At the beginning of the school year, 58% of Howard Middle FLP students tested below the 4th grade level in math. By April, only 15% remained. Only 9% of students tested at grade level 5 or above at the start of the year. By April, that number increased to 64%. Howard Middle was removed from the Focus School designation in August 2015.

“The achievements by our students have been amazing! Each and every student in the FLP program strived each day to increase his or her math skills,” said Dr. Sharon Daniel, FLP teacher. “My students made me proud to be a part of FLP.”

A Gold Medal Award Banquet in honor of Howard Middle School was held on Thursday, Nov. 19th during the NCTM Regional Conference at Merchants Restaurant in Nashville, TN.

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New Motivational Component Added to Ascend Math

Ascend Education announced today the addition of an all new motivational experience for students using its award winning Ascend Math product.

“Teachers told us that while there students really like Ascend Math they wanted an occasional fun break from it,” said Kevin Briley, CEO of Ascend Education.  “In response, we created Base Camp as a reward for hard working students as they progress through objectives and levels.”

Base Camp is a virtual world with fun games and activities for students using Ascend Math. After spending time on task in Ascend and completing post-assessments a student gains access to explore Base Camp for three minute increments.  The short respite ensures that Base Camp does not detract from time needed to fill math skill gaps in the Ascend Math program.

An evolving formula built into Ascend including time on task and the passing of assessments, units, and levels will determine when students can access Base Camp. Students come to understand quickly that they must earn their time in Base Camp.

“Ascend Math with its interactive lessons and multi-modal learning activities has always been engaging,”  said Product Developer Brodie Vidrine.  “Our goal with Base Camp is to add another layer of motivation for students struggling with math.  So far, students really like the age appropriate games and activities.”

“The kids do enjoy a 3 minute brain break during their Ascend Math time,”  wrote math teacher Marcie Cook.

In the near future, students will be able to earn awards and accolades for their efforts in Ascend Math and Base Camp.  To learn more about Ascend Math and Base Camp educators should consider attending a convenient weekly webinar at or visit us Nov. 19-20 at NCTM Nashville, booth 411.

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Fun Halloween Math Problems

An adult skeleton has 206 bones. There are 27 bones in a hand and 26 bones in a foot. How many bones are not in the hands or feet?

Count Juan Toothree is giving a party at his haunted castle. Throughout the evening guests come and go. 10 guests go in.  2 come out. 12 more go in. 3 come out. 6 go in. 8 come out.  10 more go in. 1 comes out. And just before midnight 2 go in and 8 come out.  How many guests are at the party at midnight?

After scooping out and carving the Jack O Lantern, the class counted 162 pumpkin seeds.  Their teacher roasted the pumpkin seeds for a tasty treat.  She wanted to divide the seeds up evenly among all her students. There were 18 students in the class. How many pumpkin seeds did each student get?

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Creative Elementary Math Intervention Strategies

Kathy Kreidler of Taylor County Elementary just presented to two packed houses at the FCTM (Florida Council of Teacher’s of Mathematics) Conference. Kathy is an extraordinary, innovative educator dedicated to helping her students connect with math. Take a look at this video clip below.  You’ll see how she uses a game show format to engage her students.

Kathy and Taylor County Elementary were the recipients of the Ascend Math Gold Medal for Most Exceptional First Year Implementation.  Taylor County set up a special program for 4th and 5th graders that scored lowest on the state test the previous year. Under Kathy’s guidance and working with Ascend Math all gained in their scale scores and 85% gained one or more grade levels in math.

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Educational Technology: the Good, the Bad, and the Buggy!

A recent article by the Global Digital Citizen Foundation caught my eye.  The article Why We Shouldn’t Fear Technology in the Classroom, didn’t really grab me for the headline but for the “so called” fears they listed. Let me share those with you as well as my thoughts on each:

Time:  Yes, it can take time to learn a new software program and many out there can take far too long time to learn. Good educational technology provides a tremendous time savings that is almost immediate. HINT:  Ask educators who have used the technology program how long it took them to get up and running and if it has saved them time?

Classroom Management:  “When it comes down to class management, the addition of computers can add more stress if handled incorrectly,” or so says the article.  Some technology companies understand better than others how to make the process of setting up the new program seamless. HINT: Ensure that the new technology is engaging and motivating to the students. When students want to use the program classroom management becomes much easier.

Safety Fears:  This simply should not be a fear anymore. All legitimate educational technology companies take great pains to safeguard student information. HINT: Ask to see their privacy policy.

Support and Help:  Unfortunately, I’ve heard from many hard working educators who felt they were left high and dry with a technology program that simply never worked right. HINT: Ask about customer support before bringing in a new technology program. Even better, talk to someone using the program and ask about customer support.

Adequate Training: This goes hand in hand with support.  Yes, all good technology providers offer training.  But how much training is required to become competent at using the program?  This is important for both the educator and the student using the program. This comes right back to the time factor. How complicated does the program seem to be?  HINT: When looking at case histories and results pay attention to the timing. How long did it take the schools to get results?  That’s the best indication of ease of use.

Kevin Briley is CEO of Ascend Education, creators of Ascend Math, intensive math intervention that meets each student at their lowest skill gap and guides each through an individualized study plan, often resulting in 1-2 grade levels of improvement in the first few months.

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Could you be a teacher in the 1880’s?

Could you be a teacher in the 1880’s? The math problem below was used as a test for new teachers at the Quasset school in the 1880’s.

Three boys, A, B, and C went to Putnam (a nearby town) to sell eggs. Boy A had 10 eggs. Boy B had 30 eggs. Boy C had 50 eggs. They each sold their eggs at the same rate and received the same amount of money. How much did they sell their eggs for? The answer is at the end of the article.

PUZZLE SOLUTION Boy A had 10 eggs. Boy B had 30 eggs. Boy C had 50 eggs. To end up with the same amount of money, each boy sold 7 eggs for 5 cents, then sold the remaining individual eggs for 15 cents each — so each boy earned 50 cents. (Multiple solutions to the problem are likely.)

For more about the Quasset school check out:


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Seventh Graders Achieve Outstanding Results on State Test

crosbyState test results for Crosby Middle School in Crosby, TX rose substantially for seventh grade students using Ascend Math® last year. In fact, they saw a 0% to 38% improvement in the pass rate for students with a history of not passing the STAAR (Texas state assessment). Last year, Crosby Middle School educators set up a pilot program using Ascend Math for their struggling seventh grade math students.

Students who did not meet grade level previously were placed in a tier 3 math class. The first six weeks working with Ascend, 60% achieved one or more grade levels in math. Throughout the year, that percentage continued to improve.  Read more about Crosby’s math intervention results.

“We were seeing kids who were coming into the program that were performing at least in part at a third grade level,” said Todd Hicks, Principal at Crosby Middle School.  “They were growing two, three, and even four grade levels by the end” One of the biggest concerns was how these at-risk students would perform on end-of-the-year testing.

Overall, Crosby’s passing rates for seventh graders improved from 68% to 83%. This included the at-risk students working with Ascend Math and those outside of the program. Statewide, seventh graders improved passing rates from 67% to 72% according to TEA.

“The students that we originally picked for the pilot program had been unsuccessful on the Texas STAAR test for at least the past two years,” reports Principal Hicks. Overall, our Ascend Pilot classes had 38% of the students pass the seventh grade math STAAR this year.  We are very pleased with the scores”

Crosby Middle School is one of three recipients of the 2015 Ascend Math Gold Medal. The Gold Medal Award was established in 2010 to honor the schools or districts that best demonstrate a dedication to ensuring that all students become successful at math. A Gold Medal celebration will be held in Crosby Middle School’s honor at Estância Churrascaria in Austin, TX at 12:00 pm on Monday, October 26. Parties interested in attending should contact Renata Palms at Ascend Education 318-865-8232.

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