Game-Like Educational Approach is Raising Students’ Math Scores | Schools
FOREST PARK, OH (FOX19) - A pilot program at Winton Woods High School is helping students raise their math scores while using a game-like approach to learning. Intervention Specialists Amy Uecker and Marie Auciello Vollmar teach “math lab” to ninth and tenth grade students. The lab is an elective course that utilizes the online educational resource, Khan Academy, to help students increase their math knowledge.
“We recently issued district-sponsored student email accounts to math lab students for Khan Academy, and they are being coached online,” said Rhonda Hobbs, the district’s director of technology. “The students are testing the range of their mathematical ability online, and the results are being delivered to the teachers. The kids are essentially plugging in the holes in their math knowledge by watching videos and enhancing their learning through this online tool.”
Uecker describes math lab as a “very thorough online math review program.” Before starting the class, students take the Scholastic Math Inventory to identify the areas they need to work on. “These students have gaps, they don’t have deficits,” said Uecker. “We find that when we fill in those gaps, everything else goes up.”
Uecker said she “loves the gaming part” of Khan Academy. “Just like in a video game, if you step off the path, you have to go back to the beginning. And because they’re used to video games, the students don’t get frustrated.” As the students work to master a math concept, they earn leaves in eight sections. Once those sections are completed, they’ve achieved mastery and can move on. “If the student asks for a hint, it costs a leaf,” said Uecker. “Or they can choose a lesson, which means watching a video, and it doesn’t cost anything.” Hobbs said students “are excited and challenged in this game-like approach to learning math.”
Game-based learning has become one of the priorities of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the couple’s educational non-profit organization. In a recent article published in eSchool News, Gates said the enthusiasm kids have when playing video games shows that winning can be a motivator, and that students should be able to move to the next level of a subject when they’re ready, not when everyone in the class is ready. He said he views gaming as an add-on to a serious curriculum.
As tenth grader Khadijah Palmer earns another leaf on Khan Academy, she said she likes that math class is like a game. Across the room, Jasmine Arnold takes notes on a math concept that’s giving her trouble, writing down the steps she’ll need to solve the problem the next time. “As their coach, I get a progress report for each student,” said Uecker. “I can see the time they spend on a problem, the questions they struggle with, and the work they’ve completed.” She said the students can also access Khan Academy on their phones or work on it at home.
Uecker credits fellow Winton Woods High School intervention specialists Marie Auciello Vollmar and Denise Davenport with leading the high school’s Response to Intervention efforts (RtI) in reading and mathematics. Principal Dr. Terri Holden agrees. “They gave students baseline tests in reading and math, compiled previous Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA) and other achievement data for ninth and tenth grade students, and recruited regular education colleagues to participate in the plan,” said Holden. “These teachers have worked long and hard to make this plan come alive, and they believe in the capacity of our students to achieve at high levels.”
“These students are smart. They can learn. They know they have gaps and are working to fill them,” said Uecker.