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


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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:

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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:

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Math Intervention Success in Texas!

A short while ago, a team from Crosby Middle School spoke to a packed house of educators about the strategies they were using to help students in need of intervention fill their math skill gaps quickly.  The team included Principal Todd Hicks, Math Interventionist Elisa Joseph, and Alicia Jordal, Instructional Technologist.

Please take a moment to view this brief video outlining their success.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Earth Day Math – 2015!

Earth Day 2

Celebrate Earth Day with these fun math problems.  We’ve included problems of varying difficulty to challenge both your math intervention and enrichment students.  Included are the best of those submitted to us in past years and some new ones as well.  Enjoy!

  1. 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)
  2. The average person uses about 12,000 gallons of water each year.   Using this estimate, how much does your family use?  How much does your class use?
  3. Recycling 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours.  If your TV runs 84 hours this month how many aluminum cans should you recycle to produce the energy needed?
  4. It takes 90% less energy to recycle aluminum cans than to manufacture new ones. So, one thousand cans can be recycled using the same energy as making how many new ones?
  5. 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)
  6. A leaky faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day, and a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day.  If 3 leaky faucets and 2 leaking toilets were fixed today how many gallons of water would be saved each day.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Gold Medal Time for Successful Math Intervention Students

In just a few weeks we will reveal the 2015 Ascend Math Gold Medalist Schools.  So far, six schools have been added to these honorary ranks. Math Intervention students at all six have made amazing progress this year. The nominated schools thus far include:

Oneida Elementary School, Oneida, TN

Glenbrook Middle School, Longmeadow, MA

Holabird STEM Program, Baltimore, MD

Mountain Ridge Junior High, Highland, UT

Timberline Creek Elementary, St. Augustine, FL

Williams Middle School, Longmeadow, MA

There are still more than two weeks left to send nominations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

National Championship “Big Scoring” Math

March Mathness wraps up tonight.  The National Championship game between Wisconsin and Duke will match two big scorers, Frank Kaminsky and Jahil Okafer.

In Wisconsin’s win over Kentucky Saturday, Kaminsky made 7 out of 11 field goals. Duke Center Okafer also made 7 out of 11 field goals against Michigan State.  Determine their field goal percentage by dividing 7 by 11.

For extra credit convert their free throw attempts to a percentage.

Kaminsky  5 out of 6

Okafer  4 out of 7

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spartan Math

SpartansThe number seven seeded Michigan State Spartans beat the Louisville Cardinals 76 to 70.  They now join an elite group of three number one seeds in the Final Four.  This certainly would qualify them as the Cinderella Story of the 2015 NCAA tournament.

In their win against Louisville, Spartan Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine combined for 32 points.  What percentage of Michigan State’s total score was contributed by these two players?  How many points were scored by the rest of team?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment