Groundbreaking study released: Which Math Skills Are Students Missing

Ascend Education announced today the release of a new study showing the frequency of math skill gaps found in U.S. students.

Which math skill gaps are most common to students in a particular grade? What percentage of students identified for intervention have skill gaps two grade levels below their current grade? How many at three grade levels or more?   A new report released by Ascend Education attempts to answer these and other pertinent questions regarding students in need of math intervention.

The study, “Which Math Skills are Students Missing?” includes data from more than 18,000 U.S. students nationwide identified for math intervention. All students were given a level recommendation test to assess their functional grade level. Each student was provided a series of pre-assessments on objectives beginning at their functional grade level according to the level placement test. Each student’s individual math skill gaps were identified, captured and compiled along with the others.

“The study shows it is not unusual for 80% or more of students to share a few skill gaps but following that, the distribution of gaps becomes far more dispersed.” said Kevin Briley, CEO of Ascend Education. “Rarely, do students share the same exact set of math skill gaps. Consequently, teachers are hard pressed to teach to the individual skill gaps without the help of technology.”

The study provides a ranking of the most common skill gaps exhibited by intervention students working at a specific grade level. It also lists these skill gaps within the proper scope and sequence.

“This study can be helpful to educators wanting to know which skill gaps can best be taught in small groups,” added Briley. “However, it also strongly supports the need for individualized instruction and study for each student identified for math intervention.”

To learn more, read the white paper:  Which Math Skills Are Students Missing?

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Do the Labor Day Math to see that more school pays!

Share these math problems with your math class this Labor Day week. The facts below come by way of the Economic Policy Institute through Forbes.

$28,659: Median annual earning of a U.S. worker at least 25-years of age with a high school degree.

$49,648: Median annual earning of a U.S. worker at least 25-years of age with a bachelor’s degree.

$60,709: Median annual earning of a U.S. worker at least 25-years of age with a master’s degree.

On average, how much more per year are workers 25 years of age or older with bachelor’s degrees receiving than those with just a high school degree? How much more are those with master’s degrees earning than those with just a high school degree?

What is the percent increase in earnings from a high-school degree to a bachelor’s degree and from a high school degree to a master’s degree?

Do you or your students have an idea for a Labor Day Math Problem?  Just add it as a comment.

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Intensive Intervention Pays Off for ELL Students

Congratulations to the students and educators at Carlin Springs Elementary, a largely Hispanic school with a high ELL population. Their third-grade students had a pass rate on the state’s standardized math test of 95 percent, a gain of 47 percentage points from two years ago.

Their remarkable efforts remind me very much of another school with an 80% Hispanic population in west Texas. Fort Stockton Middle school did not make AYP in math. They had tried several strategies but could not break the pattern of failure. Principal Gil-Rey Madrid had had enough. He started an intensive math intervention program mid-way through the school year. The students responded and test results went up. The following year, he focused even more heavily on what brought them success. The payoff was worth it. Fort Stockton Middle School was recognized for the highest math performance among middle schools and junior high schools in their region. The use of Ascend Math was a focal point in their intensive math strategy.

Watch the video.

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Technology that works for Special Ed Students has side benefits

A recent article in Education Dive explores ways in which technology can make invisible the help that special education students receive compared to their general ed counterparts.

“There’s some anecdotal evidence that the technology itself, with its multimedia presentation and interactivity, may also make it easier for students with disabilities like autism to digest material…And increasingly, assistive technology tools that allow students to read larger text if they have a vision impairment or absorb material at a different level is available on the same devices other students would be using: iPads, laptops and phones. Rather than an obvious gadget for a disabled student marking them as different, every student would be using a device. A teacher would be able to provide support invisibly, through a student’s device, without drawing attention to the student’s disability.”

How Tech Driven Learning Can Benefit Students with Disabilities

We see this every day with Ascend Math, our intensive online math intervention program. special ed and gen ed students working side by side both benefitting from the same online interactive technology.

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Study Shows Wide Disparity in Student Intervention Needs

Soon, Ascend Education will release a study revealing the math skill gaps most prominent among students in need of intervention. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time this kind of important data will be made available publicly. The study will include data from more than 18,000 students identified for math intervention.  Today, I want to give you a sneak peek at one of the key findings.

All students in the study were given a level recommendation test to assess their functional grade level.

7th grade math skill gapsLook at the findings for those students in grade 7 who were below grade level in math.  Nearly one out of four students had skill gaps two grade levels below their current grade.  Another 26% had skill gaps three grade levels below the seventh, 26% had gaps four grade levels below, and an astounding 19% of students had skill gaps five grade levels below their current grade.

The other grades studied look similar. There is a clear pattern here.  How can a teacher, no matter how dedicated and brilliant, attend to students with needs this widespread?

Please keep watching this blog for updates on this critical study.

Ascend Math is an intensive math intervention program that reaches down to the student’s lowest skill gap and provides a truly individual study plan unique to each student.



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In intervention, the Math “Grind” requires the right reward

In a past article on gamification I’ve written that “Interactive engagement, not entertainment, is at the core of a computer game’s ability to motivate.  Finding ways to make math more interactive and more engaging is the key to making math software better as well.”

Students can and do work hard at games, repeating procedures and tasks until they succeed. This they refer to as “the grind.”  Students using an effective learning program like Ascend Math also do not mind the grind IF there is a substantial reward at the end.

We are all familiar with the intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation argument.  Moving on to the next level is a reward in nearly all games.  And, likewise, success measured by moving up in levels in math is its own strong reward.  However, today’s students have been conditioned by the games they play so often to expect more.

The addition of extrinsic motivation at the time of success can be very effective.  Taking a cue from games, this could be anything from earning items (gold coins) to being granted a special ability or the freedom to move outside the confines of the learning program however briefly.

If it is kept true to the spirit of the program and only offered as reward for “the grind” these extras can help maintain motivation.

More later.

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A Surprising All Star Math Problem

Since 2003, the winner of the All Star Game (National League or American League) has enjoyed home field advantage in the World Series. Last night, the American League won the All Star Game. So, the American League Championship team will have home field advantage in this year’s World Series. But how much of an advantage is it? Use the table below to determine the percentage of the time that the home field team has won the World Series since 2003. You may be surprised.

Year All Star Winner World Series Winner
2014 American League National League
2013 American League American League
2012 National League National League
2011 National League National League
2010 National League National League
2009 American League American League
2008 American League National League
2007 American League American League
2006 American League National League
2005 American League American League
2004 American League American League
2003 American League National League
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Counting Fun

During the summer months we will be sharing fun math problems and activities for students of all ages.  Here’s a challenging counting song from comic, Heywood Banks that can make a great singalong at summer school or camp.




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Ascend Math announces new Teacher Dashboard

Ascend Education announced today the addition of a Teacher Dashboard to its Ascend Math intensive math intervention product.

The Ascend Math Dashboard puts the most valuable information on class progress in Ascend Math all in one place for teachers to view including:

  • Total class objectives completed.
  • Total hours the class has worked.
  • Number of active student logins in each class.
  • Number of levels completed in each class.

In addition, teachers can click on any class name in the Teacher Dashboard and that individual Class Dashboard will appear. The Class Dashboard includes easy-to-read graphs and charts.  The Class Dashboard also provides important level information for the students in the class, including the distribution of students in different levels and a list of students that have completed levels last week.

“Teachers have asked for an easy way to see all their classroom data at once,” said Kevin Briley, CEO of Ascend Education. “This could easily be the most valuable addition we’ve made to Ascend Math thus far. With the dashboard, teachers can review everything needed to monitor student math progress in just minutes.”

Previously, Ascend Education introduced a dashboard for Administrators and an individual dashboard for each student.

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Math Intervention requires time, but how to find it?

Todd Hicks, Principal of Crosby Middle School, an Ascend Math Gold Medal Leader, has worked out a unique approach to gaining time for intervention.  He shared his scheduling techniques with a group of math teachers at TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association).  Crosby Middle School uses Ascend Math in their RTI math class.


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