Columbia Heights elementary schools to implement new math software

The Columbia Heights school district has decided to introduce new software to help K-5 students improve their math skills this school year. The software is called DreamBox, an online math program that individualizes lesson plans based on a student’s own level, and ensures that a concept is understood before moving on to the next lesson. Working at a personalized pace, students are able to meet their full potential while using the fun and engaging program.

“We’re always looking at continuous improvement,” teaching and learning director Zena Stenvik said. “We know that the core curriculum will be enough for some kids, and we know that some kids will need more. That means we need to differentiate and provide intervention for those kids who need more.”

The program uses intelligent adaptive learning, which allows a student to receive a personalized learning experience. The technology responds in the moment, so the path that a student takes through the program is based completely on his or her input. DreamBox’s senior vice president of client engagement Jason Bedford said students are able to drive their own learning, which is part of the reason that the program has proven to be so successful.

“Assessments put you on a path that you are stuck on, until you get the answer that is correct,” Bedford said. “DreamBox looks at the strategies and approaches that students are taking, and really helps each one of those learners to the next optimal step to scale their math abilities and more complex thinking.”

The program is not part of curriculum, but will be used as an additional support system for students who may need the extra help. DreamBox will be used during before-school 30 minute intervention time or during small group rotation. Stenvik said families will be given a username and password for their student so DreamBox can be added to their home routine if desired.

Stenvik said during the pilot program, students were also using DreamBox to learn skills at home. “We were pleasantly surprised,” Stenvik said. “This program is very fun and engaging to kids, through its style and how its presented, so some wanted to continue to do it at home.”

“We focus on changing the attitudes about math with this generation of students,” Bedford said. He said through research in the gaming industry, DreamBox has designed purposeful, age-appropriate environments for each student level. Kindergartners to second grade travel through DreamBox in a story-based adventure to solve problems with fun characters. Third through fifth grade focuses on how and why math matters with real-world examples, keeping this age range of students engaged and interested in learning more. For sixth through eighth grade, the game essentially grows up with them. Bedford said this age range is more focused on building persistence, personalization, speed, and accuracy, as well as applying math skills to real-world situations.

According to a Harvard study done earlier this year, students who spent more time with the software saw larger gains in achievement, measured through standardized test scores and student-usage logs. Although, Bedford said the improvement in assessment-based tests is more of a by-product than the actual goal of the company, and it is the success and learning of the student that really matters.

The program is also interactive with teachers, making it easy to spot improvements and identify problems. The data will allow teachers to give extra help on an individualized level in areas that certain students may be struggling in.

“Since the program is online, the software tracks a lot of data, so teachers are able to pull reports and track the progress of the kids each week,” Stenvik said.

The program was initially piloted last spring at Valleyview Elementary. Stenvik said during the short pilot, they were blown away by the results. DreamBox was then implemented into summer school programs so results could be examined by all three elementary schools. Teachers reported positive results, and the decision was made to offer DreamBox to students for the 2016-17 school year.

Contact Sarah Burghardt at sarah.burghardt@ecm-inc.com