The Importance of Early Numeracy

Research shows that students should begin developing number sense before starting school. This is crucially important to the critical thinking and problem solving abilities that are necessary components of numeracy. These are also the skills around which the majority of the new math Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) standards revolve.

Accordingly, a lack of number sense often translates into struggles later in a student’s math career, similar to how a lack of phonemic awareness can keep a child from reading at grade level.

What to look for in a math solution

Will Davis Elementary in northwest Austin had a “Met Standard” rating by the Texas Education Agency with a distinction in English Language Arts. However, in order to increase math achievement, they decided to incorporate blended learning into their instruction in support of essential skills like numeracy. This approach supported student mastery of the math TEKS objectives while also teaching 21st century skills and providing an opportunity for students to become proficient with technology devices and applications. In evaluating solutions, it was important that there be:

  • alignment to the current TEKS
  • a deep level of personalization
  • a means to teach conceptual understanding
  • and sufficient, actionable data to inform classroom instruction

In seeking a program to support this model, the school’s leadership team, including principal Jennifer Daniels, quickly understood the value of DreamBox. She elaborates: “The program provides challenge or remediation to our students, filling their gaps in understanding and background knowledge. It’s really expanding our efforts to reach students with differing needs.”

The choice of both teachers and students

Despite other programs being made available by the district, DreamBox quickly became a favorite of both teachers and students. “Teachers really like how DreamBox tracks each student’s progress, with a variety of reports, and adjusts their learning pathway in real time based on their individual needs,” Daniels said. She went further to suggest that, “every student who uses DreamBox is very eager to spend time on it and it is amazing how highly engaged they are the whole time.” Although in-school access is limited for the younger students, the kindergarten, first and second grade students use the program at home for an average of an hour each month. This will pay dividends later in their math studies as their number sense is developed.

Meeting real challenges and demands

For the older students, Kay Hall’s fourth grade classroom is a good example of time spent on DreamBox . Her math students will average 21 instructional hours on DreamBox by the end of the year, enabling them to complete an average of 18 recommended lessons each month.

In addition to the 20 minutes spent on DreamBox during her class’s daily math rotation, Hall will often assign another 20-minute block for homework. She finds the program highly useful for students who are not quite ready to practice the skill being taught that day, and in providing the remediation necessary for students who may need some extra help before moving on.

“My students are eager to use the program and enjoy the lessons,” Hall noted, “and the reports are very useful to see where there are gaps in each student’s math background.” Daniels states, “It is really amazing to see the progress that many students have made toward mastery of math concepts in the program, and we anticipate positive outcomes regarding student achievement with its continued use.”

To find out more about how DreamBox is used at Davis Elementary and the success they are having, read our case study “Promoting Early Numeracy and Fluency.” and share your success stories at