Counting sheep: Raise math scores at bedtimeon April 15, 2012 @ 10:00 pm (Updated: 8:29 am - 4/16/12 )
"Math just doesn't have a great image in our country. Kids have bad experiences with math when they're young, and they grow up into adults who don't really like it, and then that gets passed on to their kids," says Laura Overdeck.
Overdeck is a mother of three and the creator of the free website bedtimemathproblem.org. The idea started shortly after she had her first daughter.
"We all know that we should read to our kids at night, but what about math? Math is not on equal footing. We noticed this kind of early on when we had our first child."
As she added kids to her clan, Overdeck started creating stories so that each child could figure out a different part of the problem. Other parents were so excited about the idea, they convinced Overdeck to start her non-profit website where you can get a different problem to share with your kids every night as you tuck them in.
Overdeck says one of her favorites is about the zipline her kids have been dying to build out the window, across the street and into the neighbor's pool.
"For the little one it was, well, if you start seven feet off the floor at one end of your room and you end three feet off the floor at the other end, how many feet did you drop? For the older kids it was things like, if it goes 17 feet out the window to the tree and then 27 feet to the pool, how many feet long is the zipline?"
Using technology to get kids excited about school is an idea that's been percolating for quite a while now, but we are starting to see some creative ways to translate it into real achievement in the classroom.
Another example is the Bellevue-based company Dreambox. They started six years ago by creating an innovative program that can differentiate instruction and adapt to each child along the way. Director of Product Marketing Casey Davidson says the great thing about using technology is it can track a student's every decision.
"How much time did they take? How many hints did they need? How many adjustments did they make beforehand? And not only did they get it wrong or right, what strategy did they use?"
Dreambox is being used in schools and homes across the country. Locally, you can find the program in the Highline District in Burien, the Lake Washington School District, Mercer Island, Bellevue and 39 schools in the Seattle School District.
They started with just two schools in Seattle, Queen Anne and West Seattle Elementary. They were schools on very different ends of the spectrum. West Seattle was struggling.
"It hadn't made adequate yearly progress for the previous four years, and it was actually deemed one of the lowest five percent of schools in the nation," says Davidson.
So they came up with a plan that included technology. West Seattle contracted with Dreambox and worked with their local libraries to make sure all kids could have access to the learning program whether they were at school or not.
Within one year, they were able to double the number of students meeting standards in math.
"They actually found that it really engaged students who typically were very hesitant to raise their hands in the classroom. They have a lot of English language learners in the school, and also a high percentage of special education students and students in need of intervention," says Davidson.
She says teachers found Dreambox was a safe place where kids could explore their math skills, and improve them, without feeling bad about the areas in which they might have been behind.
Queen Anne, on the other hand, had a high number of excelling students. Dreambox allowed those students to jump ahead as soon as they were ready.
The Seattle School District was so impressed, they added the program at 37 new schools the very next year.
"It doesn't matter if they're a boy or a girl, or fluent in English or learning English, or active and really social, or really quiet in class, the program doesn't care," Davidson says.
Dreambox currently is for kindergarten through fifth grades, but they are looking to possibly expand it to higher grade levels and possibly even other subjects.
You can test drive Dreambox at their website.
To try a math problem at bedtime, go to bedtimemathproblem.org.
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