Thursday, January 29, 2015

Guest Blogger: CCS Curriculum Coach-Allison Barham "Can Technology HelpStudents Gain Confidence in Math?"

This year we organized our fifth grade math classes by ability.  We felt that this would make a great difference for the struggling students.  However, this setting created frustration for students and the teacher.  Since the entire class struggled in math, students weren’t able to work independently with success because they didn’t understand what they were working on.  Also, the teacher felt that teaching a whole group lesson was not effective because there were so many students who couldn’t understand the material.  The teacher and I began thinking about how we could structure the classroom to create a successful environment. The teacher decided that all math instruction needed to be done in small groups.  The main concern with teaching in small groups was what were students going to do while the teacher was occupied.  We, along with the technology coach, researched flipped classrooms.  The station rotation flipped classroom model was selected to pilot because it was a better fit for an elementary classroom setting and would allow us to accomplish our goals.

Khan Academy was selected as one of the rotations because of its ability to help students with skills needing remediation and currently being taught, the technology feature that grabs student attention, and the videos available for students to watch repetitively to help them gain understanding.  Even though Khan was proving itself to be effective, there was a resource needed for another rotation.  We researched again to find resources that focused on math facts in a gaming platform because this is a main deficit in students that struggle in math.  We chose Aleks because it allows students to work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Once students mastered a certain number of facts, they were able to play a game which caused them to work harder on becoming accurate in their facts.

Both of these rotations have been implemented for about ten weeks.  Parapros were hired to assist students at these rotations to keep them on track and support them when they are having difficulty. Data has been gathered weekly to make recommendations on the skills students need and to check on the progress of student mastery and effectiveness of this model.  Students are continuing to grasp concepts in skills being taught currently.  The teacher has seen enormous success in teaching students in small groups.  

One piece of data that illustrates success in this model, is from Aleks.  Students have been practicing their math facts daily using the Aleks app on the ipad.  Students have gained an average of 10% in their multiplication  and 30% in division facts from the start of this model ten weeks ago!  

With this tremendous gain, student confidence has soared.  Students feel more confident in their ability to solve math problems.  They are asking more questions when they don’t understand.  This increase in confidence is attributed to the technology resource used in this station rotation model.  We are thinking about making these resources available to other grade levels next year to increase math understanding but more importantly build confidence in math.

I believe that if a student has confidence in something, they will more than likely succeed because they believe they can do it.  If schools would focus on building confidence first instead of stressing the importance of mastering all the math standards, students would perform better which leads to mastery in math skills and concepts.  A lot of money and effort isn’t needed to build a student’s confidence.  These simple apps enhanced a classroom setting and boosted student’s attitude towards math that can last a lifetime!

Allison Barham is the curriculum coach at Chattanooga Christian Lower School.  She is a child of God, wife, mom, and lover of education.  She taught in Hamilton County for 12 years.  A graduate of Emory & Henry College, she pursues effective education for students.