Is Math Still an Important Skill to Learn?

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We’ve all heard the complaints from students about how they don’t believe math will be useful in their lives after school, but what about their parents? How do they value math as a subject worth learning, particularly in relation to other skills?

Survey Results

A recent survey of more than 2500 parents found that over a third of them believe that math is only useful for people going into math-related careers, so the average American doesn’t have much need for math. Researchers also noted that the parents tended to value reading skills over math. This creates an issue for teachers who must overcome this mindset from both students and their parents to not only teach math skills, but also teach the value of math in everyday life.

Early Math Skills

While most of the emphasis on early learning has been on reading, researchers have found that early math skills are just as important to long-term success. They believe the reason for this disconnect is two-fold: first, it’s much easier for programs to encourage parents to pick up a book to read with their child. Libraries can easily support this message as well. Second, there is a culture of anxiety around math in America. It’s much more culturally acceptable for people to claim they’re “just not a math person” than admitting that they can’t read well. Parents often have bad memories of not understanding math when they were younger, and the way math is taught changes often, with little visibility to parents. For these reasons, math is often left to schools with little support from home, or in early years.

Changing the Perception

As mentioned earlier, math skills are crucial from a young age. One long-term study found that math skills at the beginning of kindergarten were the best predictor of academic skills in eighth grade. In order to encourage parents to start working on math skills with their young children, it’s important for those who work with young children—such as kindergarten and preschool teachers—to explain to parents how to talk about math with their children. Activities from estimating the number of fish in a tank at the pet store to looking for patterns in the tiles laid out on the floor can strengthen early math skills. For teachers of older students, reinforcing the importance of math skills such as logical reasoning and critical thinking can help parents understand why math is such a crucial skill for everyone, not just those going into math-related careers.

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can make learning engaging and open a math dialogue between students and their parents or teachers, contact our team or try a free trial

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Teacher Feature: Rita Minster

edited_1455328910796-1.jpgWe love to hear from teachers who are using Wowzers in their classrooms. Today, we will be featuring Rita Minster, a veteran teacher of sixteen years who has been using Wowzers for three years! Currently, she teaches a classroom of fifth graders at McCollam Elementary in the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District of San Jose, California.

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Minster’s classroom uses Wowzers supplementally on computer carts that are rotated within each classroom, but that’s not enough for her students, who often beg to stay inside during recess to continue working on Wowzers. She reports that they even log on to Wowzers at home and on their phones without prompting. Perhaps one of the reasons her students love it so much is because she uses the built-in reward system to reinforce good behavior in class. Her students certainly have no complaints about the practice, as she has heard one of them exclaim, “OMG, I have 15 Wowzers coins!” after a particularly good day.

20170426_142333.jpgWe asked what specifically about Wowzers has resonated so well with Minster’s students, and she credits several key factors. Her students enjoy exploring the virtual world of Wowzers with their custom avatars, and the lessons are straightforward and direct. The instant feedback and kid-friendly language means that students never feel like they’re working too hard and can learn without the fear of failing. Even when they get something wrong, they’re simply nudged back on the right track and receive re-teaching when needed.

20170426_142434.jpgMinster works especially hard to make sure Wowzers is individualized for each student. She keeps a close eye on her students’ progress in Wowzers and every two weeks, she readjusts each student’s learning path. Every time she’s had a question about the program, she’s been able to immediately reach the Wowzers staff through phonecalls and chat. Her approach is undoubtedly working, based on the reaction of her students. Or, as she’s heard them say, “I can’t wait for tomorrow for Wowzers!”

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Want to learn more? 

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Challenges in Incorporating Educational Technology in the Classroom

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If you’re like most teachers around the world, technology is on your mind. With so many new solutions available – from classroom management systems to digital curriculum to test prep programs – there are thousands of ways to make teachers’ lives easier. However, implementing these solutions can run into a few major roadblocks. Fortunately, it’s possible to learn from those who have already overcome these challenges.

Securing Funding

Technology often does not come cheap! However, there are ways to squeeze it into even the smallest budgets. There are many donor programs available online, where teachers create a profile for their classroom and explain exactly what they need and how much it will cost. Donors browse these profiles and decide which projects to help fund.

Receiving donated computers can also help lessen the cost of a new technology program. Recycling companies focused on education often take slightly outdated computers (which still have a lot of life left in them!) and donate them to schools. Search online to see which programs may be available in your area.

Grants are the other big way schools fund new technology. Search aggregates, such as Grants.gov make it easy to find grants that your classroom may qualify for. Just search for “technology” and see what comes up. If you have a particular program in mind, their staff may be willing to help you put together a grant proposal.

Technology Requirements

Before purchasing any equipment, make sure you know what you’ll need. The school’s IT department can likely help with this obstacle. After all, an investment in a tablet for every student can easily go to waste if the school doesn’t have the Wi-Fi network necessary. Most programs have their technical requirement accessible online. Check to make sure you fulfill all these requirements, and don’t be afraid to contact them if you’re unsure.

Professional Development

If all has gone well and you’ve secured the funding and equipment you need, be sure to follow up with professional development and training for any staff who will be using the technology, including yourself. One of the biggest reasons teachers fail to take advantage of available technology is because they don’t feel confident enough to use it, or they’re unsure how to use incorporate it in their established routines. By bringing in a professional to walk everyone through best practices, the program will have a much better success rate. Many programs include regular professional development in the cost of their subscription, so be sure to ask when doing your research!

We at Wowzers have helped many schools find the best way to incorporate technology in the classroom. To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help your school, contact our team or try a free trial

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How to Prevent the Summer Slide

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As we prepare to release students into the freedom that the summer months bring, one thing on every teacher’s mind is the summer slide: the tendency for students to forget much of what they learned over the school year. These worries are quite valid, as research has shown that children lose around two months of their reading and math skills during this time. This results in wasted time during the following school year and is often directly related to the achievement gap between students. Fortunately, it doesn’t take too much work to prevent this learning loss. We’ve included some helpful tips for both teachers and parents to lessen the effects of the summer slide.

Tips for Parents

Encourage reading! Even if your child’s school doesn’t assign a summer reading list, try taking a weekly trip to the library. Many libraries have a summer reading program that rewards children for each book they read. Librarians will have plenty of recommendations, based on your child’s age and interests. Set a goal of six books by the time vacation ends – research has shown that is typically enough to keep children on track for their return to school in the fall.

Don’t forget to include some regular math practice! Just 2-3 hours per week is usually enough practice to keep their skills intact. Before you start printing out worksheets and picking up activity books, consider something a little more fun and rewarding. Many educational math games and apps are available online, and your child’s teacher may have some suggestions based on what they use in the classroom. Involve your child in daily activities that may require math, such as planning the budget for vacation or the total cost of fuel for a road trip. Even cooking together can help younger children practice their fractions and math conversions.

Tips for Teachers

Even if your students are heading to a new teacher next year, their future teacher will almost certainly thank you if you follow these tips! Before the school year ends, start talking to parents about how to encourage learning throughout the summer. Find out what activities (particularly free ones – check local libraries and community centers) will be happening, and think about which students may be particularly interested. Keep an eye out for reading programs, science classes, and volunteer opportunities. For high-performing students, see if they would be interested in tutoring younger students. The best way to solidify what they know is through teaching it to others.

If you use a particular educational game or app in the classroom, check to see if students can log in over the summer and access their account from home. If so, make sure their families have this info and consider rewarding students for their dedication over the summer. To practice their writing skills, try giving each student a pre-addressed and stamped postcard to write to you over the summer. This has the added benefit of learning what your students are up to while they’re away.

We’re dedicated to doing our part to make learning math fun for students, especially during the break! To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help prevent the summer slide, contact our team or try a free trial

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Tips for De-stressing Students

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As students prepare for high-stakes testing, their stress levels are more likely than ever to skyrocket. To make this process as smooth as possible, here are some tips on how to get your students to de-stress.

Relaxation Techniques

As class begins, have all students sit down at their desks, close their eyes, and practice deep breathing. This is something that students can learn to do anytime they feel their stress rising. Slowly breathe in for a count of four, then breathe out just as slowly. Try counting along out loud so students understand the technique.

An internal method for relaxing is refocusing. Have students think about something unrelated that they do know. For example, have them think about their favorite food that they make at home. What ingredients go into it? How is it made? Have them picture their mom or dad’s face. What color eyes do they have? How do you spell their name? What about backwards? By answering these questions, students become more confident and focused on what they can answer correctly.

The third relaxation technique is meditation. Dim the classroom lights and either read to the students from a guided meditation, or play a recording for them (there are many such free recordings available online). This will help students relax their bodies from head to toe. Remind them to remain respectful of their classmates, as it’s easy for students to become disruptive or giggly the first few times.

Communication

For many students, writing out their concerns helps mitigate stress, often through the simple act of externalizing it. Give students the option to anonymously submit their concerns so that you can get a better feel for how the classroom is feeling and reassure them as needed. 

Others may find it more useful to act out their concerns through roleplay. In these quick and easy scenarios either written by you or the students themselves, they pair up and both give voice to their own concerns, often sharing helpful de-stressing techniques that they’ve developed.

Last-Minute Prep

The day of the test, make sure snacks and drinks are available to all the students. Breakfast and hydration is essential to keep their brains focused and energized. Some researchers even suggest providing a cinnamon or peppermint candy for students (assuming there are no allergies or food restrictions). These scents are said to help stimulate the brain.

Physical activity can get the blood flowing, while also releasing those last-minute wiggles and allowing students to stay seated for longer without getting squirmy. Consider leading a brief jumping-jacks or active stretching routine before testing begins.

Make sure that students have something to look forward to after the testing is over! By rewarding students with a pizza party, movie, or something else you know they’ll enjoy, it keeps them determined and more willing to work hard on the test itself. You can also try keeping the mood light by telling a few jokes before the test starts.

By teaching students from an early age how to manage their stress, it enforces healthy habits and can result in better test scores and happier students. To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help students prepare for high-stakes testing, contact our team or try a free trial

sales@wowzers.com

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Teacher Feature: Cory Davis

2d58086.jpgTeachers around the country often share their stories with us, as each classroom finds a slightly different solution in using Wowzers. Today, we will be featuring Cory Davis, a sixth grade math teacher of seven years. Currently, he works at Humes Preparatory Academy in the Achievement School District of Memphis, Tennesee.

Because Davis’s students use the browser-based version of Wowzers, he has them set up on Google Chromebooks – an inexpensive laptop solution for many classrooms. By using the playlist feature built into Wowzers, he creates individual paths through the curriculum for small-group instruction, enrichment, and intervention. His students seem to love his method, as one reports, “I was struggling with my sixth grade math skills, but Mr. Davis assigned me easier skills so I could work my way back up to sixth grade.”

Davis uses Wowzers in conjunction with the NWEA Learning Continuum and has seen many of his students make great strides, such as one determined individual who used Wowzers at home and saw 21 RIT points of growth after all his hard work. Davis credits the personalization of Wowzers for much of his students’ success and recommends that teachers use it to its full advantage, explaining, “It’s best not to keep your students on the same skill because every students is not the same.”

As most teachers quickly realize, there is a huge selection of other math programs out there. Davis considered using Khan Academy in his classroom, but found that Wowzers was more challenging, while also remaining kid-friendly. He has also had good experience with Wowzers’ customer service, finding them fast and helpful.

When asked what he likes best about Wowzers, Davis gave special recognition to the top-notch graphics, easy reward system, and the built-in assessments. As for his students, it seems their love of Wowzers is a little simpler: “I love the ability to control an actual character that looks like me!”

Want to learn more? 

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The Power of Games in Education

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When we talk about blended learning classrooms, we often mention how students today are “digital natives,” but what does this really mean? Increasingly, children are growing up using technology and playing video games as a form of entertainment. In fact, the average child will have spent ten thousand hours gaming by the time they are 21 years old. Clearly, there is something utterly captivating about video games, but what is it? And how can we use this power to get kids excited about learning?

Games Provide Immediate Feedback

Games typically update you immediately on your progress. If you complete an objective, you are rewarded and your character levels up, becoming visibly stronger. This type of feedback is powerful, because you’re able to visualize your progress. In a traditional classroom, the idea of learning is certainly there, but there’s no way to see how much you have learned so far, and there is typically a long wait period before they receive graded work back. By combining games with learning, students can visualize their progress. Every task comes with a reward, the goals become achievable, and students begin to think of learning as “leveling up.” Learning becomes exciting.

Games Are Challenging

Contrary to what many assume, the goal of games is often not to win, it’s to be challenged. Many popular puzzle games have no end, yet people love to play them because each level is harder than the previous. In these games, no one is trying to win, they’re just trying to get farther than they did last time. The idea of learning is very similar: in a classroom, there should be no limit to the amount of content a student can consume, but it should become increasingly more difficult in order to be engaging. A good digital learning platform does this automatically, as it adapts to each student and provides an endless amount of content, while keeping students at that sweet spot where it’s not frustratingly difficult, but always challenging.

Games Include Epic Adventures

There are some common themes in epic games. The hero is often trying to save the world or even the galaxy. People desire that feeling, where they’re doing something big and important that affects everyone. By incorporating technology in the classroom, creating that feeling for students is possible. Many digital programs combine storytelling with learning, where students use their newly-learned skills to solve big problems and save lives. By using what they’ve learned, even in a fictional environment, it makes the concepts memorable and seem more important.

Games Require Creativity

Games are full of rules. In fact, they’re a requirement in order for the game to work. Rather than a hindrance, these rules are embraced by players, because they require creativity and strategic thinking. Learning can take place in the same way. By including games in learning, teachers can create a set of rules that everyone must follow, creating a fun challenge to overcome, instead of a set of objectives to memorize. The best games are carefully designed to turn work and stress into a rewarding experience that rewards creativity and ingenuity.

Rather than look down on games as a waste of time or something that’s done when our work is done, it makes much more sense to use games as a learning tool. By including games in a blended learning classroom, teachers are able to use their power to make the content more rewarding, engaging, and to spark creativity in their students.

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help teachers make learning fun, contact our team or try a free trial

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Education Trends for 2017

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We hear you loud and clear: Digital and personalized education is the focus in school districts around the country. Surveys show that teachers are prioritizing technology in the classroom this year, but how will ESSA accountability plans, potential E-rate changes, and state funding affect these plans?

Top Five Priorities

In a new survey recently released, teachers from 163 different districts ranked their priorities for 2017, putting a heavy emphasis on technology:

  1. Personalized learning
  2. Digital content and curriculum
  3. Professional development to integrate technology
  4. Mobility
  5. Network upgrades

A majority of the teachers surveyed also reported that they have a digital curriculum strategy in place. Are you one of them? Read on to find out how new laws and funding may affect you.

ESSA Next Steps

States have begun releasing their accountability plans under ESSA, which returns much of the power and decision-making to states and school districts. Originally, these plans would then be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, but this process was halted when Congress scrapped the original ESSA implementation guidelines. All eyes are on the new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, to see what happens next. However, one thing hasn’t changed: ESSA puts a heavy emphasis on incorporating technology in the classroom.

E-rate Program Status

The E-rate government program was designed to give schools a substantial discount (up to 90%) on obtaining affordable internet access. Concerns have been raised on the future of E-rate after Ajit Pai, a critic of the program, was appointed as the new FCC Chairman. He has spoken out about past increases to the E-rate spending cap, believing them to be financially irresponsible. In the meantime, new research shows significant improvement in school connectivity, with nearly 90% of schools now meeting minimum connectivity targets.

State Funding Increases

Good news for many schools around the country  state general fund spending on K-12 increased by $9.4 billion for 2017. This includes spending increases for thirty-nine states around the country. This was the biggest increase of all the categories, clearly demonstrating that, no matter what, education is a priority this year.

To stay up-to-date on education trends, as well as learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can meet your technology goals, contact our team or try a free trial

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

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Teacher Feature: Nancy Lee

nancylee.jpgThe beauty of Wowzers is that it can be used in so many different ways. From time to time, we like to share how a particular teacher has found the perfect solution for their classroom. Today, we will be featuring Nancy Lee, a Special Education teacher with over 33 years of experience. Currently, she works at Kilpatrick Elementary in the Texarkana School District.


I have always wanted to feel in control of what my kids are learning. After a tutorial on the Wowzers program one summer I decided to give it a try for one semester. I was totally impressed that I was able to arrange, delete, rearrange or whatever I wanted or needed for my students to be successful. Wowzers is very flexible in that I can go in to add lessons, delete lessons, change grade levels, repeat lessons, etc. Teachers are able to adjust or monitor the student’s daily arrangement of activities as well.

The standards are readily available on the program if I need to make quick reference. I am able to get activity sheets which include writing, higher level thinking, extra practice and vocabulary for most standards. The reports are very informative. There are several options of reports available and should be helpful for anything needed for documentation purposes.

The Wowzers representative I work with is amazing. She is always on top of it and quick to respond to any and all of my needs. I can’t say enough good things about her or this program. I love Wowzers and am so glad I ran across the email about it that summer.

I would highly recommend the program to anyone. My students love the program and are eager to use it daily. The animations are great, their attention is always great, and the game time is always fun for all ages of students. The program keeps their attention and definitely has everything teachers could possibly need for any type documentation or intervention.

Want to learn more? 

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How to Choose the Right Test Prep Program

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We’ve discussed before on how test prep can give students an advantage. With high-stakes testing season approaching, now is the perfect time to start vetting test prep programs to find a good fit for your classroom. There are several characteristics that the most effective programs have in common.

Practice Taking Real Tests

Many programs include tips and tricks for taking tests, including ways to quickly find the correct answer or maximize their score. However, without the opportunity to actually practice these techniques, students are unlikely to remember them when actually taking the tests. By taking similar tests in advance, students gain familiarity and become more confident in their abilities. This lessens those “pre-test jitters” and helps prevent students from freezing up during the test itself. In any test prep program, check to make sure it includes sample tests, based off of the type of assessment your students will be taking.

Up-to-Date with Current Practices

The world of high-stakes assessments changes quickly, particularly as everything migrates to a digital medium. Check when the test prep program was created and how often it’s updated. Look for one that was created within the past 3-4 years and is updated on a regular basis.

Extended Response Assistance

Some of the most difficult questions for students are often the ones that require them to explain their reasoning or defend their approach. Even students who understand how to find the answer don’t always know how to address the writing portion. These questions are often heavily weighted and any test prep program needs to teach students how to answer these types of questions and provide them with plenty of practice. Bonus points go to programs that also provide teachers with a rubric on how these questions are graded so that they can give their students informed assistance.

Customized Approach

One of the most overwhelming parts of prepping students for high-stakes testing is that these assessments often cover material from an entire year. Many programs combat this issue by including a wide variety of topics and lightly touch on each one. Others only cover what they consider the most difficult material. The best test prep programs include a way to customize the material for individual students. 

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help students prepare for high-stakes testing, contact our team or try a free trial

sales@wowzers.com

P: 872-205-6250

F: 888-502-2106