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Tech Favorites: Supplemental Math

Educators share how these math solutions add up.

November/December 2008

Apangea Learning

Reviewer: Joe Guarino, Middle School Principal, New Brighton (PA)

• The problem: “We had students scoring basic and below basic on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), and the reason was insufficient math skills. Most students had difficulty grasping concepts and skills in previous years, and many were just having a hard time with math in general. We needed to act. We created a Math Strategies course to hone in on basic math skills. We found that the Apangea program fit perfectly because it allowed our middle schoolers to work independently on the math skills they most needed to improve.”
• The results: “We said we expected to see at least 80 percent of students improve their scores on state testing from the previous year. We’re over 90 percent.”
• The reaction: “A lot of the students have said that they are now having an easier time in their normal math classes and that they are beginning to have a better understanding of what they’re doing in math. Maybe that’s not as cut-and-dry as the numbers, but it’s important to kids. Parents are thrilled that their children can log on at home. It gives them a chance to see what their kids are doing.”
• Next challenge? “We want to start a Math Strategies course using Apangea Learning that all of our students can benefit from. Even if a student scores proficient or advanced on the state test, he or she can still improve. We want to help all of our students reach the next level of success.”

A+nywhere Learning System Algebra (A+LS)

Reviewer: Debbie Goforth, At-Risk Coordinator, San Angelo (TX) ISD

• The problem: “It’s not just about getting kids through the ninth grade; it’s about getting them to walk across the graduation stage. To achieve that goal, my at-risk students at the Central Freshman Campus Title I school use the A+nywhere Learning System Algebra and Web-based solutions. I can set each student’s passing rate, how many tries he or she gets, how many answer choices—so it gives me ownership and authorship. Before A+LS, we had nothing that could do that.”
• The results: “Out of 740 students last year, I only have 18 repeaters. Sometimes my students learn something on A+LS that they didn’t learn in the classoom, and they’ll go back and tell their teacher. I’ve had math teachers say they liked something they saw in A+LS and so brought it back to their classroom—and used that format of teaching. We recovered 400 semester credits just last year. My reclassified students can work on freshman courses to make them up, and then work on first-semester sophomore classes. That way, they get to move up to the high school with their friends.”
• The reaction: “I often hear comments like ‘I didn’t learn it in the classroom, but I learned it here.’ That motivates me. One of the things I love about A+LS is that I can go in to see what I need to do to fix the problem.”
• Next challenge? “We’re targeting 100 students for a Students Success Initiative, in which students report to the math recovery lab to work on A+LS with a math teacher in a small math group.” (


LearningStation and LS Test Builder

Reviewer: Erin Misegadis, Instructional Technology Specialist, USD 259 Wichita (KS) Public Schools

• The problem: “We needed to boost test scores, so we implemented the LearningStation Test Builder to help our teachers create, deliver, and assess practice math tests that match our state test requirements. LearningStation centralizes our resources for one-click login for the math curriculum, but for other curriculum needs as well. Every student and teacher has access to the Kan-ed Desktop and tools by LearningStation. Kan-ed is the statewide initiative that networks in Kansas schools.”
• The results: “Our teachers appreciate that the Web-based curriculum, rubric builders, and any resources they need are all in one place. Because teachers can generate assessments quickly and review class progress—and an individual student’s progress—they can adjust their instruction accordingly to fit their students’ needs.”
• The reaction: “It has given our teachers an alternative to teaching from a textbook. Our students, too, love learning with technology. They can review correct answers right away or at the end of the testing. They also like the reward system, where they can collect ribbons for completing work, and that they can log on at home. I don’t have to worry about supplying a whole bunch of solutions, and it’s easy to support.”
• Next challenge? “Some of our district’s schools are using it more than others, so I’m looking for higher user levels across the district. I think the recent addition of HotMath will help.”

Carnegie Learning Mathematics

Reviewer: Tommy Floyd, Superintendent, Madison County (KY) Schools

• The problem: “I didn’t need facilitators, I needed better math teachers. Madison County was given a chance to participate in a $200,000 state department math grant, and we had two options: Carnegie and a program that took the teacher out of the equation. I actually saw high school teachers using Carnegie Math as an intervention when I was at the state department. I watched average teachers have good success. I thought that if that kind of success could happen after limited experience and training, what might happen if we really got serious about training? My middle school principals took the lead.”
• The results: “We’re starting to see progress. Our middle schools made AYP, and our district made AYP for the second year with 10,000 children. There’s no question that it happened because of the infusion of Carnegie, differentiated instruction, and good teacher training.”
• The reaction: “Initially, we used it at sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade levels. In that first year, teachers were so in favor of it that they actually rotated rooms so they could be exposed to it. We have monthly math training for all ten of our elementary schools, and even had over 50 teachers attend voluntary summer math training. That says a lot for my staff’s desire to improve math teaching.”
• Next challenge? “We’re working on getting it to the high school level. Two of our high schools are planning on using Pre-Algebra and Algebra I as an intervention tool for their low math scores. I’m excited to see it in all of our high schools.”

Renaissance Learning Accelerated Math

Reviewer: Brad Tucker, Director of Instructional Technology, Highland (WI) School District

• The problem: “We didn’t have a way to give our students the immediate feedback and differentiated practice needed to succeed in math. We introduced Accelerated Math Enterprise Edition to our staff so that students who didn’t master an assignment, or certain problems, or part of a skill, could get more practice on that problem area immediately. If a student doesn’t get it right away, the computer quickly generates more problems for practice. We use it throughout the system, from third grade to algebra and geometry.”
• The results: “We also use the Renaissance STAR Math assessment piece and have seen students’ scores rise. The STAR test lets us know which objective’s library to choose for a specific student. Best of all, we adjust for ability level without students knowing, so they don’t become frustrated that the rest of the class is advancing and they’re not.”
• The reaction: “The kids love to bubble in their assignments and get them done, because there’s a little scanner they use that prints the results and new assignments. Students at our middle school are using the Renaissance Responder for this. They finish their assignment, punch in their phone number, punch in the answers, send it, and that prints out the assignment.”
• Next challenge? “Our elementary teachers will use it to see how much students retain over the summer. They’ll find out what students need to practice before our state test.”

Voyager Vmath

Dr. Pat Austin, Director of Special Education, Athens (AL) City Schools

• The problem: “We had an over-identification of students below grade level in a couple of areas—and one was math. While attending a conference, I learned about Vmath , Voyager Learning’s math program, and found that it had progress monitoring and early skills assessment. When Alabama decided to adopt a Vmath pilot, I jumped on board. We began with 100 middle schools—seventh and eighth graders—and used a list of multiple criteria, not just the Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT). We also looked at math class performance—if kids were failing, struggling—and we looked at their pattern of math skills during their early elementary years. We notified the parents, and began the initial program.”
• The results: “Personally, my grandson, who’s a sixth grader now, went through the program. He’s an average kid who got behind in math. When he hit the fifth grade last year, his ARMT scores were at Level 2 and didn’t meet the state standards for mathematics skills. He was put in the Vmath program. Entering sixth grade, he’s at Level 4. It was a meshing of good teaching, Vmath, and VmathLive.”
• The reaction: “We have fewer kids needing drastic remediation now, because we begin at third grade. We also have some students who have improved enough that special education services have either been modified or dropped.”
• Next challenge? “We want to offer it to our K–2 students, so they don’t have to wait until third grade.”

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