Revolutionizing Math Education through Visual Learning. Bringing Math to Life for students, parents, teachers and communities. Find ST Math tips, STEM insights, classroom technology implementation strategies and more!
Pickerington Schools in Ohio boasts an impressive 95.6% graduation rate for its 10,000+ students. Yet traditional math instruction was leaving their students disengaged, especially in junior high.
In order to challenge and motivate both teachers and students, Pickerington administrators launched a 1:1 district-wide device program with a plan to blend the best of digital and traditional approaches: a "Tradigital Learning Plan." See for yourself how it's working:
Personalized Learning with ST Math - YouTube
To learn more about how Pickerington Schools reenergized their math education, click below.
Interested in learning more about ST Math? Click below.
Designing and implementing a personalized learning model requires more than technology—it requires a cultural shift.
We recently visited Pickerington Local School District in Ohio, and I had a chance to sit down with Pickerington Director of Instructional Technology Brian Seymour. Brian has spearheaded amazing work at Pickerington, and has conducted workshops and trainings on technology, blended learning and personalized learning throughout the country.
Seeing how technology and personalized learning are embedded in Pickerington, I asked Brian how that transformation started. The following are ingredients that he felt were crucial to creating that initial culture shift around personalized learning three years ago.
1. Sound Curriculum Framework
Establishing a district-wide curriculum was something that Brian felt really gave Pickerington a solid foundation to build a personalized learning model.
“I think having a set curriculum has helped,” he explained, “because if you’re going to do differentiated learning, you have to know what’s coming up. I felt like we had the curriculum down pretty well.”
2. Educator-Driven Vision
Before Pickerington started investing in technology, they spent an entire year creating a technology plan. “We had about seven different stakeholder groups,” Brian said. “We had kids, teachers and board members in the stakeholder groups. I had community members that work for Google, Apple and Amazon, so we were able to bring technologically savvy people in.”
Even though the conversation was ultimately about having a technology plan, it didn’t start there.
“For the first six months, we talked about nothing other than what we wanted teaching and learning to look like in the future,” Brian told us. “A lot of that geared around the idea of moving the teacher out from behind their desk, giving the kids what they needed, and not teaching to the middle.”
While the stakeholder groups included many perspectives, Brian worked hard to ensure that the process remained educator-driven. “You need to have an educator driving that boat,” he said. “If you have someone that has no educational background, you’re not going to create a technology plan for the school, you’re going to create a tech plan for a business.”
The teachers were able to help craft the vision and the message of their personalized learning model from the beginning.
Once the vision was agreed upon, the plan for incorporating technology began in earnest. “We started to get into the question of how we could utilize technology with what we’d done in the past and what we’d like to do.”
From a hardware standpoint, they looked at what devices would make the most sense for the grade levels they were serving, and decided on a combination of iPads and Chromebooks. The discussions around software encompasssed everything from instructional programs to digital books.
A decision to phase out most physical textbooks allowed Pickerington to repurpose funds. “We took all that money and put it right into digital programs,” Brian said. “So now we have programs that are up to date, and we have incredibly interactive programs like ST Math.”
4. Ongoing Professional Development and Support
From the initial planning questions that drove group discussions, to ongoing professional development, Pickerington worked to ensure the right training was available for teachers to give them strategies and skills they needed to implement a personalized learning model.
That began with showing teachers what the approach looked like in the classroom. “For the schools that went first, we took them to other school districts that were doing this,” Brian said. “When we went 1:1 with grades 5 and 6, we brought teachers from the middle schools and high schools down and showed them what this looks like.”
“Schools have to personalize and differentiate their own professional development for teachers,” Brian added. He explained that Pickerington offers multiple levels of professional development on the same topic, so that teachers who are at different levels can get the support they need. And for teachers that have fully embraced the model and are comfortable with all of the technology, they can also lead the professional development for their peers.
5. Celebrating Successes
One of of the most important aspects of maintaining teacher buy-in and strong implementation was taking the time to acknowledge their achievements.
“Sharing the successes that happen in the classrooms is key,” Brian said. He explained that principals and teachers regularly discuss what’s working with each other during staff meetings. Embracing of technology has helped students and teachers develop new skills and creative ways to showcase them.
6. Constant Re-Evaluation
While having a well thought-out technology plan was crucial to getting their personalized learning model off to a good start, it was just as important for Pickerington’s success to regularly re-evaluate their implementation methods.
On the hardware side, that meant making sure the devices they chose met the needs of each class. In gathering feedback from teachers after using iPads for a year, Brian said it was clear they felt older students would benefit from devices that had dedicated keyboards. “So then we made the decision to switch third and fourth grade to Chromebooks.”
On the software side, it meant making sure the programs Pickerington was using truly offered a personalized learning experience for students. “One of the problems we have now are legacy programs that have been around for four or five years that aren’t truly differentiating or personalizing for kids,” Brian explained. “They’re almost like an electronic textbook. Whereas the more adaptive programs are doing things that the kids need.”
He used the ST Math Middle School Supplement as an example. “It gives kids a test at the beginning of the module, and the ones who have already succeeded don’t need to have [that content] anymore.”
Brian explained the school was in the middle of vetting all of their current programs by pulling groups of teachers together to discuss whether or not what they had was still working for them. “I want to know what’s working and what’s not working, and if something is not working, we’re going to get rid of it.”
Maintaining a Vision of Personalized Learning
While Pickerington has updated their technology and personalized learning strategies as needed, they have never lost sight of the overall vision, or succumbed to new fads. “Trends come and go quickly,” Brian told us, “but our goals have remained the same for three years.”
You can see those goals and strategies for yourself. Pickerington’s instructional technology plan has become a model for other districts as well, and they have made it readily available online. You can read the plan here.
MIND would like to thank Brian Seymour for sharing some of the ingredients of Pickerington’s success with us!
When working with personalized learning tools, teachers might be wondering: how do I know where each student is at and what can I do to confirm that they are mastering the concepts?
We're excited to share this story and idea from experienced classroom teacher Kali Kopka. When we share and implement great ideas, the work teachers do impacts not only their 30 students, but potentially many more students around the country. This blog was originally published on Elementary Geek and is reposted here with permission.
Conferencing 1-on-1 with every student in your class every class period is physically impossible. There just aren’t enough minutes in the day, and unfortunately cloning yourself hasn’t been invented yet…
I’ve talked about using Seesaw in my classroom quite a bit in the past on Elementary Geek. This time, I’ve started using Seesaw for accountability and quick formative assessments during our computer lab times.
Personalized Learning with ST Math
Twice a week, my class visits the computer lab to solve math puzzles with their favorite penguin, JiJi.
“Who’s JiJi?” you may be asking. JiJi is the adorable main character of ST Math, a rigorous, standards-based, and highly-addictive math game for students preK-6.
A puzzle from the visual math program ST Math.
ST Math time is something my class looks forward to each week. It teaches complex math concepts using both visual and symbolic representations of the math. Honestly, the whole program is absolutely fantastic.
Still, I didn’t want these computer lab times to be so isolated from my regular math instruction. I wanted to find a way to connect that fun, exciting learning with JiJi back to what we’re doing in the classroom.
One of the greatest things about ed tech is its ability to make students’ thinking visible.
Personalized and Quick Formative Assessments
After a suggestion from one of our district ST Math reps, I decided to bring Seesaw into the computer lab with me. Once a week, during lab times, I have students take a picture of the ST Math level on their screen. (Screenshots would work too if they were playing on an iPad).
Using all the devices – playing ST Math on the laptop, recording thinking on the iPad
Then, they use the draw and voice record features to explain the math behind the puzzle they’re working on. This could mean labeling quantities with numerals, labeling different parts of a puzzle, or simply explaining their strategy for solving.
Below, one of my kindergartners explains how he found the missing part in the equation. (The little orange blob under the one shows what his answer will be.) He used the draw feature to label, and then recorded himself explaining his solution.
From this little 11-second recording, I can already tell that he knows how to solve, but may need a little help in actually naming/explaining his strategy. But for a 6 year old, I’d say he did pretty well.
From Assessments to Classroom Discussions
I love using student recordings to facilitate class discussions later on. I might have one student become the “expert” on a really tricky level share their video with students who are struggling. Recordings could also be a great resource for parents who want to help their child at home, but have no idea what the level is about (You laugh, but we get lots of parent questions about the puzzles!).
And on top of all that, these are also a great formative assessment piece for me to see if students are actually understanding the math they are doing, rather than just guessing correctly.
Seesaw provides so many great opportunities for reflection in my classroom, and this activity is no different. It’s definitely been a game-changer for my computer lab times and I hope it will be for you too.
Kali is a tech-savvy elementary teacher whose passion for all things STEM fuels her innovation in the classroom and inspires other teachers to begin their own edtech adventures.
Seesaw is not associated with ST Math or MIND Research Institute.
In each episode of the Inside Our MIND podcast, we take a look at issues and challenges facing education that we are working to address through research, technology and strategic initiatives.
In our latest show, host Brian LeTendre talks with MIND's Lead Mathematician Brandon Smith about some common misconceptions regarding personalized learning. Brandon also gives some guidance on what questions educators should ask when designing or implementing a personalized learning model.
You can listen to the episode in the player below:
Thanks for listening to the podcast! Please leave us a review on iTunes, Google Play, Spreaker or wherever you are listening to the show. Subscribe to get future episodes as soon as they are released!
One question we hear a lot is: How can I engage students and families in math over the break?
If your school has ST Math, a powerful, interactive, visual math program, you can encourage students to use the program at home over break with this fun Spring Break Challenge. We recommend letting parents know about the challenge and other math resources for parents that are available to engage the whole family in math over the break!
ST Math Spring Break Challenge
Ask your students to mark their progress every time they use ST Math over break and to complete one of the listed projects. These projects will help your students make deeper connections in math by including their math vocabulary, problem solving and storytelling skills. Not only are these fun activities, but they are great informal assessments.
Encourage your students to shoot for an individual goal. For many students, a great goal is using ST Math for 30 minutes three times a week , or you can create custom goals with your students. Having a goal increases intrinsic motivation to complete the challenge.
When you return from Spring Break, allow students to share their projects, and celebrate any goal completions. Be sure to share your success and learning on social media (Twitter or Facebook) and JiJi will respond with congratulations!
One of our recent webinars dove into personalized learning and how it can guide students to deeper engagement and deeper thinking. Differentiated instruction can not only capture students' attention and hold it, but also get them thinking conceptually and trigger those "Aha!" learning moments.
Focusing on specific examples and best practices, our webinar team explored the power of implementing math software to create high impact personalized environments.
Check out the highlights in the video below:
Personalized Learning Webinar Highlights - ST Math - YouTube
Didn’t catch personalized learning webinar but loved the highlights? Don’t miss out on our next webinar coming up on March 13, 2018 -- Rigor Relevance: The Challenges of Enabling Creative Problem Solving.
Description: New educational standards have made the call for a different kind of rigor in math. With this shift, teachers are struggling in finding a scalable method to deliver rigorous content. This webinar will touch on the challenges teachers face when implementing rigor in the classroom, and offer solutions that enable all students to be creative problem solvers.
Two main challenges educators face in implementing rigorous math instruction
A Rigor Relevance matrix that addresses content and implementation
Example of ST Math animated puzzle challenges facilitating rigorous problem solving
Sample puzzles for teachers to take into classrooms
One night, my wife and I had just sat down to dinner at a local restaurant when one of the waitresses came rushing over to our table. I recognized her immediately—she was a young woman who had been a resident of a group home that I used to run. She had been in her first or second year of high school when she joined the program and was struggling with behavioral and emotional issues, substance abuse and unresolved childhood trauma.
Over the course of her stay, she worked extremely hard to cope with her issues, reunite with her family and return to the community. I hadn't seen her for a few years, and when she recognized me in the restaurant, she updated me about her continued success. She'd graduated high school, was enrolled in college and was working to pay for school.
We had a great conversation, and I remember thinking about just how much adversity she had to overcome in order to get her life back on track.
I cherish that memory to this day—as I do all of the success stories I experienced.
Academic Success Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum
At MIND, we talk a lot about perseverance and growth mindset when it comes to problem-solving and mathematical success. The very first Standard for Mathematical Practice in the common core speaks of helping students be able to "make sense of problems and persevere in solving them."
But academic success doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and skills like perseverance and resilience affect much more than learning in school.
I spent the last 20+ years in human services, working in and then overseeing programs that served children and adolescents. In the early part of my career, I worked with teenagers at a stage in their lives where they needed residential treatment in order to deal with issues that stemmed from early childhood.
These kids lacked appropriate support during their youngest years, and many of them had not developed self-regulation and coping skills, or a sense of resiliency. In most cases, they struggled with academics and behavioral issues at school, which went hand-in-hand with their struggles at home and in the community. And unlike the young woman I spoke of earlier, many of those kids continued to struggle into their adult years.
While overseeing family child care programs, I saw first hand the impact positive adult interactions, as well as a strong educational foundation can have on the lives of young children.
For me, MIND’s mission to equip children to become the world’s problem solvers is a natural extension of the work I’ve been involved in my entire career. Because building perseverance, resilience and a growth mindset in students is not just crucial to their academic success, but to their social and emotional success as well.
Research on Social-Emotional Competence and Learning
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as "the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."
The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has listed Social and Emotional Competence of Children as one of the five protective factors in their Strengthening Families model for reducing the risk of child abuse.
Resilience, perseverance and a growth mindset are not just critical for students’ academic success, they are important for kids’ mental health.
As students learn to persevere through challenging problems, learn from their mistakes and believe in their own ability to achieve, they are also developing skills that will help them navigate the world outside of school.
The gap we hear about the most is the achievement gap.
Consider, though, that to bridge the achievement gap students need learning experiences that change their perceptions about math and themselves.
What if students looked forward to math? What if all students could see themselves as capable and creative problem solvers? Imagine the impact on achievement.
Learning By Playing
Game-based math instruction offers students the opportunities to have rich and transformative learning experiences doing what they love to do: play!
A national survey found that 97% of 2-17 year olds play digital games. While that includes games made purely for entertainment, we can apply lessons learned from these games to create games that are both educational and engaging.
Math, specifically, has interesting opportunities to utilize game-based learning to guide students deeper in the mathematical thinking and practices described in mathematical standards.
With well-designed learning games, students are intrinsically motivated to keep trying. They persist because they are engaged and believe they can succeed - by design, game levels will get more difficult, but always have a possible solution.
As students persevere in problem solving, they develop a belief in themselves that has powerful effects on learning.
The benefits of self-motivated learning include:
Perseverance in problem solving
Increased learning capacity
Increased confidence in learning
Playing the Way to Deeper Learning with ST Math
Did you know that, two-thirds of ST Math schools have Title I schoolwide programs and schools using ST Math® have doubled and tripled their growth in math proficiency?
The ST Math game-based learning program guides students of all levels in visualizing math concepts through tantalizingly tricky puzzle challenges. As students play, they gain a strong conceptual understanding and develop a love for math and the rigors of problem solving.
Looking for a unique way to engage students in math? Encourage your students to enter this year’s K-12 Game-a-thon challenge.
In this national challenge, students will design, build, and share a game that features creative and unusual solutions to mathematical problems. Game-a-thon helps students explore math outside of the traditional classroom environment and allows for a whole lot of fun!
Whether this is your kids’ first or fourth time entering the competition, make sure to explore the K-12 Game-a-thon website. It gives a step-by-step explanation on how to enter, contains example videos, and provides other great resources. Before you get started though, check out the answers to some frequently asked questions below.
K-12 Game-a-thon FAQs
I want to participate in Game-a-thon! How do I do that?
There are three steps to participating:
Design and build a unique math game
Film and upload a video of your math game
Submit the online application to complete your entry
Who can participate in the K-12 Game-a-thon?
All students in grades K-12 in the United States are welcome and encouraged to participate. Students will also need a “coach” to participate. This coach can be a teacher, parent, or other adult over the age of 18.
What does a Game-a-thon coach do?
A Game-a-thon coach serves as a mentor and resource to student teams or individuals entering Game-a-thon. Also, coaches upload the students’ video recording to YouTubeTM, assist them in collecting their media release forms, and complete the online application for them.
Do I have to be a current or past ST Math user to participate?
Absolutely not! Game-a-thon is open to any and all K-12 students.
Do I need to enter Game-a-thon as part of a team, or can I enter individually?
Either! You’ll need a coach whether you’re part of a team or entering as an individual. If you’re participating as a team, make sure the grade levels of all team members fall within one of these ranges:
Pre-K through 2nd grade
3rd through 5th grade
6th through 8th grade
9th through 12th grade
Can I be a member of more than one team or enter as an individual and as part of a team?
Can my team or I enter more than one game this year?
No, each team or individual may only submit one entry. Make sure to play-test and improve your game so it's the best it can be!
Does my game have to be a board game?
Nope! It can be a board game. It can also be a card, computer, outdoor, or other type of game. Anything goes so long as it features a mathematical concept and can be explained and demonstrated in your video.
How will my game be judged?
A team of educators, mathematicians and game designers (including JiJi), will review and evaluate all submissions. Games will be evaluated based on the following: use of math themes (40%), creative game design/ material use (30%), originality (20%), and video presentation (10%).
When’s the last possible day to submit my Game-a-thon entry?
July 16, 2018! It might be a good idea to give yourself a bit more time, in case you encounter any trouble uploading your video to YouTubeTM or submitting your application.
What if I have a question that you didn’t answer above?
Hungry Alligators, featured in the 2016 Hall of Fame, allows players to explore expressions and equations while slipping and sliding toward an "alligator pond." It was created by second grader, Alana, of Pinellas County Schools.
This year's K-12 Game-a-thon is sure to bring lots of creativity and fun! What will your students come up with?
YouTube™ is a registered trademark of Google, Inc. and not affiliated with this challenge.
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