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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The Missing Middle: How Middle and High Schools get Underfunded

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post recently reported on the vast divide in funding for elementary and post secondary schools (the big winners in Federal funding) and middle and high schools. Given the enormous problem with high school graduation we agree with her assumption that funding needs to be more equitable. Ms Strauss writes, “The returns on current investments in the early grades and postsecondary education will not be realized fully if the federal government does not build on those efforts by targeting investments to middle and high schools to prepare students for high school graduation.”

Please read her article http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/05/23/how-grades-6-12-get-robbed-in-federal-education-funding/

 

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ASCD Shares Keys to Success in BYOD Initiatives

For any school or district considering a technology initiative I think this article is a must read.  It will only take one minute.  Then, pass it along to your committee so that they get it.

This recent Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development article suggests key drivers for success in a BYOD initiative.  The six key drivers are: build out infrastructure, grow a shared vision, create a strategic plan, implement professional development, integrate into student programs and creatively allocate budget.  These six key drivers of success relate to any school or district Ed Tech initiative.  My experience would suggest one improvement to the order, do strategic planning first.

As a reminder, we are committed to device neutrality.  For more than two years now, Ascend Math has been built for and used on tablets of all varieties.

http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol10/1017-sheninger.aspx

 

 

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On Leadership and Teaching in the Math Classroom

Leadership seems to be one of the flavors of our time.  While there are many “tips” and “lists” of leadership essentials, the real measure is one’s ability to lead.  In business I deliver value by seizing opportunities and overcoming challenges, sometimes called solving problems, nothing more.  When solving problems with my team, I always value process m0re than outcomes.

In a classroom, I would propose that it’s even more important to emphasize the process of dealing with a problem rather than the accuracy of the answer.  The tricky part is that children are always curious about whether they got the right answer.   Therefore, teaching strategies to lead students to dig deeper into their answers is really necessary.

At some point, most teachers were introduced to the Socratic method.  Having applied the method effectively in business I would recommend using it as guidance for deeper thinking with students in the style of a negotiation.  After getting the answers from a student, add more detailed questions such as, “Why?” “What changed?” “How else could you get this answer?” “Is there any other possible answer?”  And the always powerful, “Is there anything else I need to know?” This method may be harder to use with more objective subjects like math and science but still has huge potential.  Here is one interesting use of the Socratic method in a math class: http://www.mathmaniacs.org/lessons/01-binary/socratic.html

In my view, the most fundamental responsibility of a teacher is guiding students to learn. The original Latin definition of Teacher is similar to leading or guiding the student to learn.  Great educators exhibit not only passion for the subject, but compassion for the student who makes a mistake.  So, in addition to knowledge, I would propose that leadership is one of the key abilities a great educator should have.

What do you think?  Share your ideas on leadership, great educators or math intervention with me here on the blog.

 

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Gold Medal Honors Exceptional Math Intervention Implementations

This year, Ascend Math is honoring 23 Gold Medalist schools whose math intervention efforts have brought about a turnaround at their schools.

The Ascend Math 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. The Gold Medal nominees all used Ascend Math as their math intervention solution to assist struggling students.

Educators at the twenty three Gold Medalist schools demonstrated exceptional progress in helping students succeed in math. This is the strongest group of nominated schools we have seen yet.  We are extremely proud of what these educators have accomplished this year.

Howard Middle School in Macon GA, Crosby Middle School in Crosby, TX, and Glenbrook Middle School in Longmeadow, MA were named the Gold Medal Leaders for 2015.

Taylor County Elementary School, Taylor, FL was named Exceptional First Year Elementary Implementation.  Joseph L. Block Middle School, East Chicago, IN was named Exceptional First Year Implementation – Middle Grades.

You can see all the Gold Medalist Schools and learn of their exceptional results at  http://ascendmath.com/gold_nominees_2015.html.

 

 

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Effective Math Intervention: Engagement or Gamification?

I’ve noticed more posts and articles lately touting either the benefits or detractions of “gamification.” It seems that not that long ago “edutainment” was the buzz word and then, just as quickly, it fell by the wayside.

Why do we keep cycling back to the idea that for educational software to be effective it needs to involve games?  Well, it comes as no surprise to anyone that students of all ages, especially boys, really like apps and games.  What’s more, it is not hard to see opportunities for learning within the game structure.  But, rather than trying to insert learning into a game, doesn’t it make more sense to find what it is about games that motivates these struggling students and incorporate that into their learning?

Interactive engagement, not entertainment, is at the core of a game’s ability to motivate.  Finding ways to make math more interactive and more engaging is the key to making math software better.  One of the keys to designing any popular game is to build in a series of obstacles that increase in difficulty.  Sounds a little like math, doesn’t it?  In order to overcome the obstacles, the gamer must first have some knowledge of how to overcome the obstacle, or at least where to begin, plus the willingness to try multiple times.

When we set students down to fill in their math skill gaps, we must first be assured that they have the background knowledge to take on the objective.  We do this through assessment.   After that, the willingness to try multiple times is the key to success.  And  this is true in any endeavor: sports, games and learning. This is where engagement kicks in.  The student who is engaged will put forward the time and effort required to succeed. Gamers often call this “the grind.”  The best I’ve seen it described is by Dr. Ivan Joseph as the skill of self-confidence.  Watch him describe it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-HYZv6HzAs

Let us borrow from games only that which drives young people to attempt solving problems multiple times and with multiple approaches. Let us make it engaging and interactive, not necessarily entertaining.  This is where we at Ascend Education begin each time we set out to create a new or improve upon an existing objective in Ascend Math.

I’ll share more on this in later blog posts.

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