How Statewide Efforts Drive Math Achievement

math achievement
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During a recent Tech & Learning webinar hosted by Dr. Kecia Ray, South Carolina educators and DreamBox Learning representatives talked about how state resources in South Carolina, including funding for DreamBox, have helped fuel math achievement. 

"The first step to the longer journey before us is using the program and seeing the positive from those interactions," said Jennifer Wise, K-12 Mathematics Coordinator for Lexington School District Two. "It’s important to have benchmarks to say, ‘Ok, we’re here, what’s the next step?’"

Watch the full webinar here. 

Measuring Value-Added Growth 

Dr. Matthew Lavery, Director of Research of South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee, said the state has moved toward measuring student growth in math to better encourage growth. “When we started to think about how to design our system so that it is inclined to produce proficiency, rather than having median growth or average growth be the comparison point when average growth doesn't really change much, we're using these progressively assigned targets that are designed to get students toward proficiency as the comparison point,” he said. “Hopefully, the system is now inclined to produce students on a pathway toward proficiency rather than producing the same straight lines year over year.” 

Prudent Pedagogy 

Before making DreamBox Learning tools available to every district in the state, South Carolina officials vetted the product and made sure it was research-backed and aligned with teaching practices in the state, said Odell Kennedy, South Carolina Sales Director for DreamBox Learning. “If you want to have long-term or sustainable gains, then it has to be predicated on prudent pedagogy instructional design that aligns to that pedagogy,” Kennedy said. 

Later, he added, “What makes us different is that we do not focus only on the answer a student provides. But we focus as much, if not more, on the thinking that led to that answer.”

Remembering The Why 

Wise said that in addition to utilizing state resources, successful math programs inspire students and remind them why math matters. “Why are we learning math? Yes, there's computational effectiveness, there's innovation and practice, but there's also a beauty and wonder,” she said. “Being able to provide opportunities and spaces for students to be able to tinker with math and become nimble and see it for so much more than just a computation – computations are valuable, but let’s see it as more.” 

Reducing Math Anxiety 

Math is one of the topics that creates a lot of anxiety but state and tech resources can help with that. “Not being very comfortable in math growing up myself, I can really relate to that,” said Lynn Carey, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction School District of Newberry County. “To me when the student is on a program such as DreamBox, it's non-threatening. It's just between them and the program. If they get an answer wrong, they're not embarrassed in front of their peers. It's a safe space. After Covid, and during Covid, there's just been so much anxiety, stress, and mental health [concerns] in children and adults, anything we can do to help minimize that, I think is a step in the right direction.” 

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.