Slate Science is a Microsoft Partner who will be exhibiting in the STEAM Village as part of BETT 2016. With initiatives such as the BBC micro:bit, Hour of Code and more, Microsoft is keen to support STEAM learning and the computing curriculum. Read on to find out more about how Slate Science can support interactive learning in mathematics with their web based curriculum, Matific.
In 2015, Susie Reilly was given access to a laptop cart containing 35 laptops. It was a year of trials and triumphs, as the students and Mrs Reilly changed their teaching and learning styles. As she stepped away from the front of the room, the situation went from “sage on the stage” to all being facilitators of learning. Student ownership for school community exceeded her expectations. The silent students suddenly thrived confidently as they gained their voices. As a veteran teacher of 15 years, it has been known to Mrs Reilly that the student's voice is essential for learning because it fosters ownership, motivation, and a growth mindset. The entire year, she observed these elements growing in all students by using technology in a meaningful way.
Students that had been drifting through the educational system since reception slowly gained a sense of themselves as worthy members of a group of professional learners on a mission of meaningful educational pursuits. They smiled more, mentored others and shared their passions and challenges. Their former teachers commented on how previously in school, these students had been drifting from place to place like little ghosts, but now they were going about their business as confident as tigers, ready for school challenges.
One specific example is about a group of maths students in a maths intervention class. These students scored consistently far below average on pretty much every maths test they have ever taken in school. It was difficult to motivate these students or even identify exactly where the gaps in learning occurred. Sadly, half of the year group was in this group every year. Mrs Reilly had been teaching the maths intervention class for the ten years. She’d tried every trick and strategy she could find to help lift these students to a place of higher learning, but every year felt defeated as all of their efforts didn’t seem to have a lasting effect when test time arrived.
With the advent of this new laptop cart every day during math class, she was able to have the students use web-based maths programs to fill in the maths learning gaps. She tried different game based apps that the students loved, but didn’t seem to transfer the skills learned to general problem solving in maths effectively.
Soon, she discovered Matific, a web-based, curricula aligned, k – 6 maths program that had a unique way of introducing concepts and building strategies that students generalized when they problem solved. She was able to front-load months in advance three concepts that always challenge Year 4 students: double-digit multiplication, long division, and fractions/decimals. Mrs Reilly began incorporating Matific into maths lessons more creatively and interactively to increase use of the strategies for students throughout mentoring, group work, and partnerships.
In the Spring, immediately following the tests, the students mentioned that the strategies learned on Matific gave them the confidence to engage in problem-solving during the tests.
The Matific momentum continued. Student confidence to mentor others increased. Struggling students were able to elaborate specifically on what they didn’t comprehend. Academic vocabulary improved, raising the level of academic math discussion among student groups.
At this point, the students felt confident about talking maths. One day, the intervention students mentored more advanced students using graph paper, traditional algorithm and a Matific episode called “Multiplication Algorithm”. This is something they would never have attempted before. The more advanced students struggled through as the intervention students were able to tutor them and help them achieve eventual understanding. In the end, it changed the attitudes both of the sets of students.
Students began sharing their unique way of struggling with concepts that they would have given up on earlier. Learning began to accelerate, resulting in lower performing students surpassing higher performing students in numeracy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Using a district benchmark test, 8 out of 15 of intervention students from Mrs Reilly’s class improved grade equivalency by six months or more in a three-month time span. Traditionally, all of these students either remained the same, or the majority decreased in grade equivalency over the same period.
“Scores aside,” said Mrs. Reilly, “the biggest take away as a teacher is that the success the students and I experienced from utilizing Matific filled the learning gaps for struggling students and my teaching practice.”
Math time turned into a place where student discussion using academic vocabulary was initiated by students and accountability raised the level of learning as students pressed each other for reasons and proof. More importantly, It allowed student voice to flourish.